Analysis

Scotland ponder Euro 2024 contingency plans after Lyndon Dykes leg injury - and forgotten EPL striker might be best replacement

Scotland can ill-afford to lose the one hitman who brings physicality to table

It felt horribly typical that on the day the Scotland Euro 2024 squad were scheduled to visit a local hospital, one of the players should end up a patient in one.

And not just any player. There’s an argument that Lyndon Dykes could be viewed as the squad member Scotland manager Steve Clarke can least afford to lose. While Andy Robertson is skipper and the beating heart of the group, his loss would at least be easily solved: Kieran Tierney is on hand to play left-back, his preferred position.

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If Tierney was to suffer injury, as happened before the Euro 2020 opener against Czech Republic, there are a number of possible replacements for left centre-half, including Scott McKenna and Liam Cooper. Different types of players of course, and not nearly as threatening in an attacking sense as Tierney, but dependable defenders all the same. As for midfield, so well blessed are Scotland in this department that the loss of one of the group could be withstood.

Lyndon Dykes' Scotland participation is in doubt after a knee injury.Lyndon Dykes' Scotland participation is in doubt after a knee injury.
Lyndon Dykes' Scotland participation is in doubt after a knee injury.

Worryingly, however, Clarke has no-one else like the athletic Dykes, who has suffered a suspected knee injury in training. No-one else in the current group that is. Dykes’ physical presence was set to be such an important factor, either from the start or off the bench, against the muscular opposition Scotland will face in Germany, including the hosts themselves. Che Adams might have been considered at the head of the queue to start the Euro 2024 opener against Germany two weeks today but he’s still battling for match fitness. Lawrence Shankland is an option but it's hard to see how he would have featured ahead of Dykes.

So what now for Scotland if the Queens Park Rangers' player's injury is as bad as feared? It certainly did not good from the position of the sleuthing photographer who captured the direct aftermath of the incident as players participated in only their second full training session of the pre-tournament camp.

Clarke's decision to base his players in central Glasgow was roundly applauded. He wanted to let them taste the excitement of the build-up in contrast to Euro 2020, when a base in North-East England combined with Covid restrictions meant it all felt a bit remote and disconnected.

However, the images that emerged following Dykes’ misfortune reminded Clarke of the downside of training slightly more publicly. Their business becomes everyone else’s business. Dykes had barely been stretchered from the Lesser Hampden pitch before his plight was being relayed around social media. The looks of concern on the faces of the players who surrounded him, including Robertson and Cooper, as well as Clarke himself, who is shown laying a comforting hand on Dykes’ head, do not bode well.

Oli McBurnie is a free agent after leaving Sheffield United.Oli McBurnie is a free agent after leaving Sheffield United.
Oli McBurnie is a free agent after leaving Sheffield United.

The key to Scotland’s success this summer could now lie on the substitutes’ bench for Southampton’s Championship play-off final victory over Leeds United last weekend. Adams is the obvious answer but he managed just 20 minutes at the end of Saints' 1-0 win after missing both legs of the play-off semi-final against West Bromwich Albion.

And Adams is not Dykes in that he is not the same threat in the air. The taller Ross Stewart was mentioned in despatches towards the end of the season in terms of a Scotland call-up. He has returned to the Southampton squad following Achilles and hamstring injuries that have disrupted his move to the south coast from Sunderland. However, he was not needed against Leeds and has made just two substitute appearances so far in his latest comeback.

Alternatively, what price a late call-up for the much-maligned and currently out-of-contract Oli McBurnie, once a £20 million striker? His worth to Sheffield United is reflected in the number of fans praying that he re-signs for the club. After 16 international appearances and no goals, he may not sound like anyone’s answer to the colossal headache Clarke might be handed in relation to Dykes.

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McBurnie is currently recovering from a groin injury and with his future still so uncertain he might be hesitant about answering any call from Clarke. Still, six Premier League goals for relegated Sheffield United this season is six more than any other Scottish striker. There are worse options.

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