Former Scotland midfielder Darren Jackson believes that national team manager Gordon Strachan should build his starting XI around Celtic’s Invincibles for the crucial World Cup qualifying tie against England at Hampden on 10 June.
Strachan has named six of Brendan Rodgers’ players in his squad for the game and former Celtic player Jackson insists they will be best-placed to help him get the win he needs to keep the Tartan Army on course to qualify for next year’s World Cup finals. He argues that, having just completed a clean sweep of domestic trophies without losing a game, Celtic’s stars will be awash with the confidence required to take the game to Gareth Southgate’s side.
“People might look at this group and ask why there are so many Celtic players involved but you can’t get any more confident than the players who are playing for Celtic right now as they have been playing at the top of their game,” he said.
“If they need to be picked then they need to be picked. Just look at the ones who’ve been playing well – some of them were nominated for the Player of the Year and they’ve all been excellent. Scott Brown wasn’t nominated but I feel he should have been.
“James Forrest has also been excellent under Brendan. You pick them on their performances – not because six or seven of them play for Celtic.”
Craig Gordon, Kieran Tierney, Stuart Armstrong and Leigh Griffiths could also feature against England and that takes Jackson back to France 98 – the last time Scotland qualified for the finals of a major tournament – when he was one of eight title-winning Celtic players selected by Craig Brown in his 22-man squad.
“That was similar,” he said. “Jonathan Gould, Tosh McKinlay, Jackie McNamara, Tom Boyd, Paul Lambert, Craig Burley, Simon Donnelly and I were all included.
“As part of the deal when Jorg Cadete signed, we had to play Sporting Lisbon so we won the league on the Saturday and went to Lisbon the following day to play them. When we touched back down at Glasgow Airport the squad was announced. It was amazing.”
Jackson was part of the coaching staff under McNamara at Tannadice and helped nurture Armstrong, although he concedes the improvement he has made under Rodgers’ tutelage has been marked.
“He’s playing under a manager who’s given him huge confidence,” he said. “I’d like to think Jackie, Simon Donnelly, Craig Hinchcliffe and myself played a little part in his development but he’s taken it to a new level this year, he’s been absolutely sensational.
“You’re always going to be linked with moves to England after a season like this but I’ve spoken to him and he’s happy where he is.
“I still keep in touch with Stuart and a lot of the United boys. We had a great rapport with the players. You feel a bit of pride because you are setting them off on the right path. Other people did that for us and we tried to do the same for them.”