Interim Scotland manager Malky Mackay has ruled out playing Kieran Tierney at right-back in this Thursday’s friendly against the Netherlands while stating “absolutely” that his Celtic team-mate Callum McGregor would earn his first cap in the Pittodrie fixture.
SFA performance director Mackay is keen to put his own stamp on the national team following the departure Gordon Strachan last month. The use of natural left-back Tierney on the opposite flank to accommodate Andrew Robertson and the reluctance to give McGregor game time were two issues that dogged Strachan as the country narrowly missed out on a place in the play-offs for next summer’s World Cup.
Tierney has become the most lauded player in Scottish football through his left-back displays in the Champions League, as evidenced by his performance against Bayern Munich last week. Mackay wants Scotland to see the best of the 20-year-old, and will consider playing Liverpool’s Robertson in front of him, or using Tierney in a back three.
“They are the options yeah,” said Mackay. “It is not something I am looking to do on Thursday night, play him [Tierney] at right-back. The two of them [Tierney and Robertson] are certainly going to be in the team. I have not quite decided how the make-up of that is going to look. Looking at the Celtic boys against Bayern, they are all acquitting themselves well at Champions League level and that is important we get our best players in the team.”
That includes McGregor, who was in the squad for last month’s double-header against Slovakia and Slovenia, but has yet to feature at senior level for his country.
“Callum, you can assume, will see a Scotland shirt,” said Mackay. “You talk about improvement in players and I love to see it. There are some that are on a pathway that is straight up. Some plateau, some go up again and some don’t. Callum McGregor probably is the most improved player in Scotland in the last 18 months.”
One player missing will be Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths who has pulled out of the squad because of a calf injury and could be out for two weeks.