Allan McGregor insists the time is right to end his Scotland career after announcing his retirement from international football on the eve of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
The Rangers goalkeeper expressed his sadness at the decision but believes it is necessary if he is to continue to meet the demands of playing for the Ibrox club.
McGregor’s departure from the Scotland set-up comes as manager Alex McLeish prepares to name his squad at lunchtime on Tuesday for the opening Euro 2020 Group I qualifiers against Kazakhstan and San Marino later this month.
It leaves McLeish with a decision to make on a new first choice goalkeeper, a position 37-year-old McGregor had made his own again last year during Scotland’s successful Uefa Nations League campaign.
McGregor, who made his Scotland debut in 2007 during McLeish’s first spell as national team boss, earned 42 caps for his country and kept 16 clean sheets.
He has been in outstanding form again this season after returning to Rangers last summer but feels he can no longer cope with the additional demands of international football.
“It’s a sad day for me to bring an end to my international career, but unfortunately I feel it is a decision I have to make,” said McGregor.
“I am playing over 50 games each season, but I know my body and at this stage of my career I need to use the international breaks to rest up to help ensure that I play at the top level for as long as possible.
“This decision was an extremely hard one for me to make. It is also the start of a new campaign and it feels like the right time to step aside and allow the number of strong options we have to push on from here between the sticks.
“I would like to thank the manager and all of the coaching staff for their understanding – they’ve been incredible with me. It was Alex McLeish who handed me my international and club debuts, so it almost feels fitting to bring an end to my Scotland career with his support too.
“I have so many brilliant memories, from my first time pulling on the jersey 12 years ago, to our most recent success in the Uefa Nations League. I would also like to thank the Scotland fans for all of their incredible support over the years.”
McGregor’s time as a Scotland player was not without controversy. In 2009, he was suspended by the Scottish FA along with then captain Barry Ferguson after the infamous ‘Boozegate’ episode under George Burley’s management. But he was recalled the following year by Craig Levein and continued to vie with Craig Gordon for the number one spot.
McLeish admits McGregor is a significant loss for Scotland but also expressed his understanding at the player’s decision.
“Allan has been a fantastic player for Scotland over the years and has produced some memorable performances for his country for more than a decade now,” said McLeish.
“I had watched him come through the youth system at Rangers and in fact I gave him his debut for the club, so I knew first-hand how good a player he was when he made his Scotland debut.
“Time and again, he has proven himself to be a top performer for his country. His save late on against Israel was crucial in our Uefa Nations League success and it is fitting that he bows out on such a high.
“We will miss his experience around the squad, but we respect that he does not feel able to continue to represent both his club and country and wish him all the best for the future.”
Scott Bain, who has recently displaced Craig Gordon as Celtic’s number one, appears the strongest candidate to play for Scotland in Kazakhstan on 21 March and San Marino three days later as McLeish tries to lead the country to a first major tournament finals since 1998.
Bain made his Scotland debut in a friendly against Mexico last summer and has been back-up to McGregor since then.