There isn’t much that Alex McLeish doesn’t know about the Scotland players he is likely to rely on when the Nations League starts in September. Whether, and how, to use Callum Paterson might be one issue still to resolve, though.
McLeish will be without a number of his integral performers when Scotland set off for their end-of-season jaunt that will take them to the Americas for friendlies against Peru and Mexico City. That could yet open up possibilities for the Cardiff City player who is a very different proposition at club level than in the international domain.
On Tuesday, the 23-year-old bagged his tenth goal of the season with a sweet volley at the back post, allowed by his advanced role on the right of midfield. It might not have been a moment for his club to savour, the goal coming in a 3-1 defeat at Derby that means Fulham are breathing down their necks as they look to close out automatic promotion to the Premier League in their final two games. It was, though, a moment that McLeish admits provided food for thought.
For the Costa Rica defeat last month, in which the 59-year-old embarked on his second spell in charge of the national team, he selected Paterson as a right wing-back, the player ostensibly a right-back when he departed Hearts for Wales last year. As with Cardiff manager Neil Warnock, McLeish has now had a rethink on that.
“I watched him in the game,” said McLeish, pictured. “If you need a tactic you’ve got to use it if it’s available. What I’ve seen of him in England has changed my thoughts about him a wee bit.
“But we’ll just have to wait and see what we have in terms of other positions.”
McLeish believes he has the “nucleus of seven or eight players” that could be considered probable for the Nation League opener against Albania in September. The chance of others to enhance their prospects next month will come in exacting circumstances. Peru’s hosting of Scotland will be their last game before heading to the World Cup, a celebration of 40 years on since their thumping of Ally MacLeod’s side in the Argentina finals, while Mexico will use their meeting with Scotland to key themselves up before heading to Russia.
“In essence, we are the warm-up team for these guys going to the World Cup. But we don’t want to be going there just as a bit of fodder,” said McLeish. “We want to go there and recognise that this is the level we want to get to, that we want to play against teams of this level at the next World Cup or European Championship. As it will be Peru’s last game before heading off I think they are talking about something like 100,000 being there. It will be a phenomenal atmosphere. It’s something we would like everyone to relish and embrace.”
l Alex McLeish was at Hampden to launch this year’s nominations for the Scottish Football Hall of Fame. The public can nominate their football personality at sfmhalloffame.co.uk The Scotland manager will also be the recipient of a special tribute at this year’s Hall of Fame dinner on Sunday 21 October at Hampden. Tables for the dinner can be secured by calling 0141-620 4040.