Liverpool’s likely progress to the Champions League final will have an impact on Scotland’s summer tour, with left-back Andrew Robertson set to miss the international side’s trip to Latin America if the Anfield club can see off Roma in next week’s semi-final second leg.
But rather than dwell on the short-term setback of losing a key player for friendlies against Peru and Mexico, Alex McLeish expressed delight at Robertson’s progress.
Liverpool’s stunning 5-2 win at home to Roma in the first leg on Tuesday night means Robertson is in line to become the first Scot to play in club football’s most glittering occasion since Paul Lambert won the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund in 1997.
Scotland may also be deprived of the services of Scott McTominay, the Manchester United midfielder likely to be involved in the FA Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley next month.
The Scotland squad is due to depart on 23 May – three days before the Champions League final in Kiev and four days after the FA Cup final.
Scotland play Peru on 29 May and Mexico four days later.
“Could be difficult, with the Champions League and FA Cup finals,” McLeish said of having the pair on the flight with him to South America. “It could be a case for Plan B for guys that could be missing.”
It is likely that Celtic’s Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Callum McGregor will also be excused the trip on the back of their 11-month, 50-game-plus seasons, but the fact that Scotland have a clutch of players growing their reputations in the game will benefit the national team set-up in the long run, believes McLeish.
“Robertson’s rise has been meteoric,” the national manager said. “He’s a great kid, great attributes, a superb professional, and it raises the profile. McTominay’s been ill in the past few weeks but he’s not far from being a very good Man United player.
“We’ve a few playing at good levels in England, though maybe not as high as those two. Those types take your squad to another dimension. The Celtic guys have played Champions League and have shown good rhythm when they’ve played for Scotland. And the new boys have been impressive; we were slow in the first half of the Costa Rica game but I was really happy with the other three 45s,” added McLeish, referring to his first two games in charge, a 1-0 defeat by Costa Rica and a 1-0 win over Hungary.
“I am still to have that second conversation with Brendan [Rodgers, about his Celtic players travelling]. He was very honest about everything in the first. I need to pick a squad and he knows that.
“I am prepared to make a concession here or there. There is the term burnout which has happened in the past and I understand all that. I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot either and I don’t have somebody available for us later in the campaign.”
The decision to take on friendlies against World Cup-bound Peru and Mexico only weeks before Scottish-based players are involved in European qualifiers for their club has been much criticised. However, Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths, who has recently returned from injury, has expressed his desire to resume his Scotland career next month.
“I want to take as strong a squad as I can because this in essence is the build-up to the [Euro] qualifiers,” McLeish said. “I don’t want to be going into qualifiers thinking who is going to play. I want to try to get a nucleus who I believe we can go forward with.
“When I hear guys like Griffiths and others say they want to play for Scotland it is music to our ears. Why shouldn’t you want to play for Scotland? Of course you should. It is one of the greatest feelings in your life to play for your national team. It’s early in my tenure as Scotland coach again. I think players will maybe be feeling they have to prove to the manager that they are ready for these championships.”