With Scotland continuing to suffer heartbreak in our two main sporting passions, football and rugby, it’s surely only a matter of time before complaining becomes our official national pastime.
Football fans in this country, in particular, love a good moan, and nothing divides opinion quite like an international squad announcement, especially when the nation is struggling to rub two points together.
The SFA should be glad that waves of negativity hit every squad selection. Sure, it brings criticism of Gordon Strachan back to the forefront of national consciousness. But it could be worse. Supporters could be completely apathetic. That’s when they stop purchasing wildly overpriced tickets and choose to do something else when the international break comes along.
Mind, we’re only a couple of beats away from apathy. There’s only so much complaining we can do about Phil Bardsley not filling the vacant right back spot before we catch ourselves. ‘Are we really arguing over whether Phil Bardsley is in the international squad? My word, when did it come to this?’ We’re merely swapping one six-out-of-ten player out for another. The squad is full of them, but as we’ve yet to come to the horrible realisation that none of it really matters, we continue to get all heated with who is or who isn’t selected to face Canada and Slovenia.
And on that note, here are the players supporters should feel most aggrieved about not receiving a call for the upcoming double-header.
1. Jamie Walker (Hearts)
The fact that Barrie McKay has one cap and Jamie Walker still hasn’t been included in a Scotland squad is something which, quite rightly, rankles with Hearts fans. The midfielder has been the club’s most consistent goal threat this season, banging in 15 and tallying eight assists to go along with it. In raw goals and assists stats alone, he’s the most impressive Scottish playmaker this term. Was it too much to ask for a run-out against Canada?
2. Zander Clark (St Johnstone)
Do we really need three experienced goalkeepers for these two games? Fair enough if they were both qualifiers and one of them suffered an injury in the opening match, but what use is using three veteran stoppers we all know about, rather than trying out someone who may be Scotland’s No.1 of the future. Scott Bain and Jack Hamilton have both been touted as future Scotland goalkeepers. Both have been included in previous squads. Neither have had as good a season as Clark.
3. Liam Lindsay (Partick Thistle)
We’ve mentioned McKay and Hamilton already, two players who were never going to become first-choice regulars in the Scotland squad, but were brought in for Strachan to have a closer look and encourage them to keep doing the right things to secure their international futures. Well, why not do the same with Lindsay? He’s been the most outstanding young centre-back in Scottish football this season and is expected to fetch close to £1million if Partick Thistle chose to cash-in on their 21-year-old asset. It must be the plethora of options we have at centre-back that blocked his inclusion...
4. Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen)
It’ll be a travesty if the 25-year-old continues to play to his typical level in the Ladbrokes Premiership and never gets an international call-up. There must be something about him as a player that Strachan really doesn’t like. To be fair, as a left-back his constant omission is not all that surprising. Kieran Tierney and Andrew Robertson are both terrific talents, while Lee Wallace has an advantage by actually playing at left-back every week. But what about the base of midfield? Darren Fletcher and Scott Brown are both in their 30s, while James McArthur is 29. Don’t we not need to start thinking about our future at the position? Either Shinnie or Celtic’s Callum McGregor would have deserved an experimental cap for the Canada game. Furthermore, Shinnie has played at right back before for Inverness. Don’t we need someone at that position? Speaking of which...
5. Phil Bardsley (Stoke City)
The full-back may not be first choice for Stoke City, but he’s still played 16 times this season for a Premier League side (Grant Hanley, meanwhile, has played only 13 times for second tier Newcastle) and there’s the fact he’s an actual right back, something missing from the rest of the squad. This campaign may seem like it’s petering out into familiar disappointment, but you’d have thought we’d still want a natural right-back to play on the right side of the defence against Slovenia. Otherwise we’ll likely station Russell Martin out there, which will further weaken our centre-back corps. Well, I say weaken, but can you weaken something that’s already beyond repair?