GORDON Strachan will take the unusual step of playing an active role in Scotland under-21s’ must-win qualifier against Ukraine next week and has been instrumental in securing Hull City’s Andy Robertson for the squad.
The national team manager is not taking over from Ricky Sbragia for the Group 3 match at St Mirren Park on Friday, 13 November. But Strachan will be with the squad all week including the fixture in Paisley to offer his help and guidance, while also learning what kind of talent is coming through.
Scotland opted not to fix a friendly for the next international break, rather hoping that they would have been involved in the Euro 2016 play-offs, so that has presented the opportunity for Strachan, who has just signed a new two-year SFA contract, to become involved.
Sbragia believes it will be a fantastic boost for his young players who are trailing in their group behind leaders Iceland and France in the attempt to qualify for the finals in Poland in 2017.
Sbragia said: “It is great. The players will be looking to impress him. He is thinking about the players that are there and seeing them first hand. That’s important as he will get to know them on the training ground.
“From my point of view, it’s fantastic. He is there until the Friday. He might miss the odd day or afternoon but he will be there all week.
“I think in general Gordon is coming to see what we do, how we prepare and if it is similar to the A squad, and to see what talent we have in the squad.
“We have a great communication pathway. We talk very regularly about things that are going on between the 21s and the 19s and the 17s. We are fortunate enough we are able to see them all, so it’s great.
“I think it’s the first time in a way this has happened. We have been watching the 16s, we are down there just now, and I’m not saying we mentor Brian McClair but we had a debrief. We have a lot of chats about the players in general.
“They did really well on Sunday beating Wales in the Victory Shield and now have another two games. I assisted Scott Booth with the 17s in Bulgaria and we qualified for that. It gets us to see what is there and is coming through, as well as what we can do for them.
“It is really important that your national manager is there looking at who is coming through and asking questions about it.
“It is our fourth game in and we know the importance of winning. I’ll still pick the team and we’ll decide the tactics.”
Robertson burst onto the Scotland scene last year but has not been a regular this season, although he did face Georgia and Gibraltar away.
Clearly, his experience will be a massive help to the squad which also includes Hibs stars Jason Cummings, John McGinn and Liam Henderson.
Sbragia said: “It was suggested to call up Robertson. We were talking about it and we thought it would be great for Andy and the players to see him coming in.
“The one thing about Andy was when I spoke to him he was delighted. There wasn’t any doubt in his mind, he wanted to come and help us which is fantastic.
“From his point of view to want to come and play at 21s says a lot about Andy.
“There was never any doubt. It’ll be great for the young players to train with him.
“I would hope the experience he’s had at that level will help us as well.”
SQUAD IN FULL
Ryan Fulton (Liverpool)
Jack Hamilton (Heart of Midlothian)
Liam Kelly (Rangers)
Stuart Findlay (Celtic, on loan to Kilmarnock)
Marcus Fraser (Ross County)
Dominic Hyam (Reading)
Donald Love (Manchester United, on loan to Wigan Athletic)
Callum McFadzean (Sheffield United)
Jordan McGhee (Heart of Midlothian)
Callum Paterson (Heart of Midlothian)
Andrew Robertson (Hull City)
Jay Fulton (Swansea City, on loan to Oldham Athletic)
Liam Henderson (Celtic, on loan to Hibernian)
John McGinn (Hibernian)
Craig Slater (Kilmarnock)
John Souttar (Dundee United)
Billy King (Heart of Midlothian)
Stephen Mallan (St Mirren)
Barrie McKay (Rangers)
Sam Nicholson (Heart of Midlothian)
Ryan Christie (Celtic, on loan to Inverness Caledonian Thistle)
Jason Cummings (Hibernian)
Oliver McBurnie (Swansea City)
Lawrence Shankland (Aberdeen, on loan to St Mirren)