Returning Celtic stars bring winning mentality to Scotland

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan admits his side face a must-win match against Slovenia. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan admits his side face a must-win match against Slovenia. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
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Mark McGhee believes the return of a raft of Celtic players for Scotland’s must-win game against Slovenia can raise spirits following Wednesday’s morale-sapping friendly draw against Canada.

Scott Brown, Craig Gordon, James Forrest and Kieran Tierney are all in line to be included in Gordon Strachan’s line-up for Sunday’s vital World Cup qualifier. Stuart Armstrong, the in-form Celtic midfielder, is also set to make his debut.

Scotland assistant manager McGhee seems confident players who are used to winning can energise the group and help get Scotland back on course for Russia.

“That’s important,” said McGhee. “Any Celtic players selected come in on a real high. They are about to win the title again when they go back,” said McGhee. “They are anticipating that. They all look great in training.

“And they will lift those who play with them in the game. So, yes, we hope to benefit from the positivity that seems to surround the Celtic players at the moment.”

Strachan rested the Celtic regulars in his squad against Canada in view of the club’s demanding season.

Celtic have not lost a domestic match all season and could secure a sixth successive league title as soon as next week. They are also in line to win a historic treble for only the third time in the club’s history.

Their fortunes are in stark contrast to those of Scotland, whose faint hopes of qualifying for the next World Cup hinge on beating Slovenia this weekend.

Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon seems even more certain to start on Sunday after David Marshall withdrew from the squad yesterday because of injury. Hearts’ goalkeeper Jack Hamilton has replaced the on-loan Hull City player.

Of the six Celtic players included in the squad, only Leigh Griffiths is battling form and confidence issues having not started a game for his club since December. The striker played the last 30 minutes of Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Canada but couldn’t make an impact.

McGhee reported that James Morrison, riding high at present with West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League, is another player currently helping lift spirits. The midfielder was the best player at training yesterday and providing he shakes off an ankle injury that saw him miss the Canada clash could feature in the side on Sunday.

“We worked with most of the boys who weren’t involved in the match so they were feeling different from those who played (v Canada),” said McGhee after training yesterday.

“It was a very positive training session and anyone who watched it would have realised it was terrific. All the Celtic boys obviously trained and also James Morrison and Matt Ritchie who hadn’t (previously) been training.

“James Morrison was the best player in training so we can expect he’ll be fine for the game.”

McGhee accepts Scotland have to win the fans back after the disappointing draw at Easter Road, watched by a crowd of just over 9,000.

“The fans need something to celebrate and something to hang their hat on,” he said. “They feel the couple of results we’ve had recently haven’t given them that.

“One result can change that. Imagine how people will feel if we get that going into the England game.

It can all change on one result.”

“We need to win to have any chance of qualifying,” he added. “What I do think is that results change perceptions. If we win on Sunday night then we’ll suddenly all feel different again. But there’s no kidding anyone on. We need to win.

“As far as we are concerned Wednesday sat outside of Sunday. A lot of the players who weren’t involved might be involved on Sunday and players like Tom Cairney got introduced for the first time.

“There were things that were for the future as much as Sunday. There wasn’t a lot going on at Easter Road with a view to Sunday, possibly thankfully.”