Darlington-born James Morrison will create a little bit of history when he leads Scotland out in Zagreb tomorrow night against Croatia.
With Darren Fletcher, Scott Brown, Gary Caldwell and Kenny Miller all unavailable, the West Bromwich Albion midfielder has been handed the captain’s armband for the Group A World Cup qualifying clash. He is the first English-born player to captain Scotland since Bruce Rioch led Scotland out against the Netherlands in the 1978 World Cup finals.
Rioch was born to Scottish parents in Aldershot, where his father was a regimental major in the Scots Guards, while Morrison qualifies for Scotland because of his Scottish grandfather, George. Despite representing England at junior level, Morrison chose to play for Scotland and made his debut under George Burley in 2008. He has since become a lynch-pin of the side, particularly under Craig Levein, Burley’s successor. Morrison, who turned 27 last month, will win his 23rd cap tomorrow night in the Maksimir Stadium.
Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee was reluctant to break the news of Morrison’s promotion yesterday morning when he faced the media, preferring to leave the job to manager Gordon Strachan. “There are points in a manager’s reign that are significant, and I think naming the captain is one,” said McGhee. “Gordon invited me to tell you the captain this morning but I declined. I think that it is such an important decision.”
Strachan later confirmed his choice of Morrison, who was picked ahead of other candidates such as goalkeeper Allan McGregor and striker Shaun Maloney. “James has been an excellent Scotland player over a number of years now,” said the manager. “He thoroughly deserves this recognition and honour after a terrific season.”