Mark McGhee: Scott Brown not a certain starter for Scotland

Mark McGhee believes Scotland have no need to be feel inferior against their English hosts on Friday because the returning Scott Brown is not even guaranteed a game.

Scotland coach Andy Watson, left, and assistant manager Mark McGhee during a training session with the squad at Mar Hall yesterday. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS

The former skipper’s recent decision to suspend his retirement for at least one match created much hoopla. But while acknowledging the player has a “good chance” of being reinstated to midfield, McGhee noted how others have stepped up to the mark since Brown’s announced he was stepping away from international football in August, a decision he has since revoked.

The Scotland assistant manager was speaking at Scotland’s Mar Hall base yesterday at the start of a crucial week for Gordon Strachan and his staff. McGhee had good news to impart when confirming Brown had checked in after fears his much-publicised return to the squad would be thwarted by an injury picked up during Celtic’s 3-0 win over Inverness on Saturday.

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“I could hear Broony’s voice this morning – you know he’s back, it’s great,” said McGhee, who also revealed Brown sat out training yesterday as a 
precaution after picking up a dead leg at the weekend. But, while McGhee stressed he was confident Brown would be available, he cautioned against presuming the Celtic captain step straight back into the team for Friday night’s World Cup qualifier against England at Wembley.

The assistant managerpointed to the high-calibre candidates to fill Scotland’s midfield positions. James Morrison and Robert Snodgrass both scored timely goals in the Premier League this weekend, for West Bromwich Albion and Hull City respectively.

McGhee stressed such stand-out performances from Scots in a competitive and world renowned league is one why reason why Scotland should feel encouraged when faced with so many familiar faces on Friday. Included in the England squad named yesterday by interim manager Gareth Southgate are Liverpool’s 
Jordan Henderson, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and skipper Wayne Rooney.

“You have [Darren] Fletcher, Morrison, [James] McArthur, these guys who play in the Premier League every week against these guys,” said McGhee.

“Every week they show they have no fear of these players. We should be strong.”

McGhee noted that Snodgrass has stepped up to the challenge of replacing Brown following what turned out to be the Celtic midfielder’s brief retirement.

“He’s a fantastic person to have around the camp, he stepped up into the vacuum Broony left,” said McGhee. “We now have both, which is brilliant. What I would say is we have very strong midfielders. We have James McArthur, James Morrison, who was excellent for West Brom at Leicester on Sunday, Darren Fletcher. And I don’t think Barry Bannan has done a lot wrong. In the last few games, he’s been one of our better players. The manager has got a decision to make there and Broony being back gives him another one.

“If Broony is an automatic starter, then one or two of them are not going to play,” McGhee added.

“It would be totally unfair on those other boys. I think the good thing is Broony is here. He is putting pressure on them, putting pressure on the manager to pick him, and he’s playing well. He has a good chance of playing but that’s not been decided yet.”

McGhee, meanwhile, suggested it could be another case of “never say never” after news emerged on Sunday that Alan Hutton had retired from international football. The Aston Villa full-back has asked not to be considered for future games, starting with Friday’s clash with England.

“That’s a very, very personal thing,” said McGhee. “A few weeks ago, Broony was out. Maybe in two weeks’ time or two months’ time when we’ve beaten England and looking positive again, then Alan Hutton might want to come back.

“If he does, then the manager will consider that. The door’s never closed.”