Gordon Strachan has outlined his intention to leave no stone unturned in his bid to find the players who can make the crucial difference in ending Scotland’s long absence from major tournament finals.
Announcing two separate 19-man squads yesterday for the challenge matches against Czech Republic and Denmark at the end of this month, Strachan has named nine uncapped players.
They include surprise call-ups for 18-year-old Nottingham Forest winger Oliver Burke and Leeds United defender Liam Cooper, along with the more widely-anticipated inclusions of teenage Celticleft-back Kieran Tierney, Hibs midfielder John McGinn and Aberdeen midfielder Kenny McLean. Dundee goalkeeper Scott Bain, Wolves midfielder Kevin McDonald, Brighton winger Jamie Murphy and Charlton striker Tony Watt – currently on loan at Blackburn Rovers – are the other uncapped players chosen by Strachan.
There are some equally eye-catching omissions, including Middlesbrough striker Jordan Rhodes, Fulham forward Ross McCormack and Rangers captain Lee Wallace.
Of the 33 players named in total by Strachan yesterday, only five are in both squads for the Czech Republic fixture in Prague on 24 March and the Hampden meeting with Denmark five days later – Brighton defender Gordon Greer, Norwich full-back Steven Whittaker, Celtic utility man Charlie Mulgrew, Watford midfielder Ikechi Anya and Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher who is currently on loan at Marseille.
These are the Scotland manager’s first preparatory games ahead of the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign which begins in September and he explained his selection process was motivated by his desire to find the right formula to try and end what will be a 20-year run of failure for the national team by the time those finals in Russia come around.
“I just can’t keep playing the same players,” said Strachan. “I need to know whether there is someone out there better than the players we have been playing. I just need to find out if there are players out there who can get us the extra win we need to qualify for a big tournament.”
Former Hull City defender Cooper, 24, and Forest winger Burke are both in the squad for the Denmark match.
“Leeds signed Liam for around £800,000 a couple of years ago and he is still young for a centre-half,” said Strachan. “He has good presence, a good left foot and can pass the ball.
“Oliver is a bit different. I actually went to see Tony Watt playing for Charlton against Forest when Oliver played and I thought ‘who’s this fella?’. He’s very quick and strong. He likes playing wide but you don’t really know what his best position is yet. I like what I see, he has a power that many young Scottish players don’t have.”
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