Why Liam Cooper is ideal Scotland candidate to step in for Manchester United absentee Scott McTominay

The throat virus that has caused Scott McTominay to be rendered unavailable for Scotland’s crucial assignment in Moldova won’t be difficult to swallow for Steve Clarke.

If we know anything of the national team manager, it is that he has an unerring ability to remain sanguine regardless of whatever selection issues he may be forced to confront.

With a World Cup play-off place the prize that will be earned should Scotland emerge victorious from their Chisinau encounter it is far from ideal for Clarke that the Manchester United performer joins a missing list that already contains suspended attacking pair Lyndon Dykes and Ryan Christie both suspended and injured centre-back Grant Hanley.

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To indulge in Clarke speak, though, McTominay’s absence will merely provide another member of his squad the opportunity to play their part in what could be a night truly to savour for Scotland.

Scott McTominay has pulled out of the Scotland squad with a throat infection (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)
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If there is any comfort for Clarke it relates to his canniness developing squad options across his two-and-a-half years in charge. That deliberate strategy means that, even with two of the stalwarts that would be automatic picks in his first choice three-man defence missing in McTominay and Hanley, he can still select a tried backline trio. In that, Jack Hendry and Kieran Tierny will be deployed on the left and right. The pair ought to flank Liam Cooper, even if Scott McKenna is also a possible . The Leeds United captain has had a strange slow-burner of Scotland career since he made his debut two years ago. Encouragingly, though, one of the most composed showings among his 11 appearances - eight of these starts - for Clarke’s team came when he linked up with Hendry and Tierney in the backline. The three men formed the rearguard for the country’s pre-Euro 2020 warm-up 2-2 draw with the Netherlands. And appeared a good blend in doing so.

Cooper, it must be said, hasn’t fared so well in the two starts he has since been handed in Scotland colours. He struggled deputising for Tierney in the Euro 2020 opening game 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic. He then had a difficult evening when Clarke’s team were beaten by the same scoreline in September away to Denmark, the team Scotland will close their qualifying group campaign against at Hampden on Tuesday. It is a game they will be fervently hoping to render largely meaningless by defeating Moldova. Elland Road captain Cooper has proved durable in many pressurised situations at club level over recent seasons and deserves to be trusted to rise to the occasion in Moldova.

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Liam Cooper could be back into the Scotland starting XI (Photo by MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)