Alex McLeish will not let Scotland’s heavy defeat by Belgium deflect him from his plan to play a three-man defence in order to accommodate both Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson.
The Scotland manager is preparing for the first competitive game of his second spell in charge against Albania in the Nations League tonight.
He stressed he will “persevere” with a formation deploying Tierney at left centre-back and Robertson at left wing-back. It once again means a situation where neither will be playing in their preferred position of left-back.
McLeish concedes the first Nations League fixture is already a must-win game following Albania’s win against Israel on Friday. Scotland’s 4-0 defeat by Belgium on the same night was far from ideal preparation. Among the main talking points afterwards was Scotland’s use of a three-man defence.
Tierney has been used at right-back in the past but playing the Celtic player and Robertson on their natural left side is McLeish’s preferred option.
“I take examples from other teams and countries,” he said. “There are players around who are flexible enough to play in specific roles. There is no evidence to say that if we’d played 4-4-2 against Belgium we couldn’t have been beaten 5-0.
“If we’d been 4-4-2 and got a doing then people would have been asking if I was thinking about changing the system.
“I know how it works but I’ve got to persevere.
“One thing I’ve done throughout my life, in terms of out on the pitch, is that if things aren’t right for me I never give up. I persevere. And I’m going to persevere with this formation.”
He said he could understand calls to play Tierney at right-back to allow Robertson to revert to left-back, where he stars for Liverpool. But he pointed out Tierney has been deployed at left centre-half for Celtic and still been able to express himself going forward.
“We saw Tierney play at left centre-back at Aberdeen and he got forward and someone else sat in for him,” he said. “I don’t discourage that because I know he’s a force for Celtic. But it’s one of these conundrums. We have two great players so what do we do with them?
“I try to play to the players’ strengths, maximise the players we have got and accommodate the players we have got who I feel are going to take us to another level.”
Another conundrum facing the manager – the choice between Allan McGregor and Craig Gordon for goalkeeper – has been sorted for the time being by an “amicable arrangement”. McGregor will play tonight after Gordon endured Friday’s assignment against Belgium.
McLeish is confident the “blatant” errors made against Belgium can be fixed.
He also gave a positive prognosis for Leigh Griffiths, who was replaced at half-time on Friday.
The striker was suffering from a heel problem that could have been aggravated by his choice of boots. McLeish said: “Leigh will be available, he trained this morning. He had something in his heel, friction from the boot or something. He has trained every day since. It wasn’t a big scare, he hasn’t missed anything.”