Kevin Thomson gets surprise Scotland call-up

Hibernian midfielder Kevin Thomson has been called up to the Scotland squad after a three year absence. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Hibernian midfielder Kevin Thomson has been called up to the Scotland squad after a three year absence. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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LAST Saturday afternoon, he was playing in front of a handful of people in a Central Taxis East of Scotland First Division match for Hibernian against Hawick Royal Albert.

On Friday, Kevin Thomson could be facing one of the top sides in international football when Scotland entertain Belgium at Hampden Park in a World Cup qualifying clash.

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan’s decision yesterday to call up Thomson as cover after midfielders James Morrison and Graham Dorrans withdrew due to injury took many by surprise.

Thomson received the news just two days after he had played in the 9-0 victory over Hawick Royal Albert at East Mains, the Hibs training ground. The midfielder was suspended for the Premiership clash with Ross County at Easter Road on Saturday and so was handed a run-out with the Hibs side that has recently joined the East of Scotland League ranks.

Thomson had expressed concern at not being able to play for a month due to the international break and so volunteered to take part in the match alongside the club’s youngsters. Now he could be actively involved in Scotland’s double-header against Belgium and Macedonia, although Mark McGhee, the Scotland assistant manager, yesterday admitted it is unlikely that Thomson will make the leap from the Central Taxis East of Scotland First Division to facing the likes of Eden Hazard and Marouane Fellaini on Friday night.

However, injuries could yet play further havoc with Strachan’s plans. Late last night the Scottish Football Association announced that goalkeeper Allan McGregor had withdrawn from the squad. McGregor, who has been in impressive early-season form in the Barclays Premier League with Hull City, had been suspended for the match with Belgium on Friday in any case but will now sit out the Macedonia game four days later because of an unspecified injury.

Striker/midfielder George Boyd, a team-mate of McGregor at Hull, also withdrew yesterday after picking up an ankle injury. Barry Bannan, meanwhile, will not join up with the squad until today after being allowed to complete his transfer to Crystal Palace from Aston Villa yesterday.

With seven players walking a suspension tightrope on Friday after picking up yellow cards, McGhee said Strachan decided to bring in replacements now, rather than have to “scramble about on Saturday and look for people who are in Dubai, or wherever it is they hang out when there is no game on”. As it stands, the assistant manager cannot see Thomson featuring on Friday night.

“In this situation we have looked around and hopefully – I don’t want to detract from the lad – we will have enough at this stage so we don’t have to call on him,” he said.

“He is going to maintain the quality if he had to go on for a bit or certainly in training and within the group in preparation. He has more than enough ability to do that so we had no fears, Gordon knows him very well and bought him before.”

Joining Thomson in being called up are Craig Bryson, Chris Burke and Rangers full-back Lee Wallace, who has not played for Scotland since the 5-1 defeat by United States last summer. He withdrew from the squad to face Croatia in June due to injury.

Thomson won the last of his three caps for Scotland in a 3-0 friendly defeat against Sweden in 2010, shortly into Craig

Levein’s tenure as manager.

McGhee yesterday explained that Thomson’s progress since returning from serious injury at Hibs had been monitored by Strachan, who signed the midfielder for Middlesbrough three years ago.

“Even on the last trip he was a name that was mentioned as we all feel he is a quality of footballer that is good enough,” said McGhee.

“He has had his injury problems and the number of games he has had over the last period has not been enough for him to have really been considered.

“We knew it would be seamless in terms of him coming in and it is not a big introduction to bring someone in who has been with the squad before. He knows the players and he is a comfortable player to introduce.”

As for Thomson, he told the Hibernian FC website yesterday that he was “delighted” with the call-up. “It’s been three years since I was last involved with Scotland,” he said.

“But a return has always been a big personal goal for me. Obviously I’ve squeezed in through other boys’ hard luck and injury, although I’ve experienced that side of it before too.

“Hopefully this will be the start of what will be a good season for me. To be back involved is great and even if I don’t get to play in either of the qualifiers it’s a special feeling to be part of the Scotland squad again.”