Peter Grant has warned that there may be no way back for the players who did not want to be considered for Scotland duty for the forthcoming Nations League double header.
The Scotland assistant coach was speaking as manager Alex McLeish suffered a further blow yesterday. Ryan Jack, the Rangers midfielder, has withdrawn after picking up a knee problem having only been added to the squad on Sunday. Aberdeen centre-half Mikey Devlin, meanwhile, is struggling to shake off a knock.
But it’s those who asked not to be considered for the original squad who could find themselves excluded on a permanent basis. Grant has stressed those unwilling to help Scotland out of a tight spot risk not being picked again under the present regime.
Matt Ritchie of Newcastle United wanted to be excused for the matches with Albania and Israel and West Ham United’s Robert Snodgrass also made himself unavailable, citing an on-going ankle problem. Both played for their clubs at the weekend. Fulham’s Tom Cairney, who is returning from an ankle injury, was another notable absentee. He has started his club’s last three games.
In total McLeish has been denied the services of nine players for the vital matches due to a combination of reasons.
Scotland fly to Tirana on Friday before heading north to Shkoder for the first qualifier against Albania on Saturday. According to Grant, some of those not on the flight have cause to fret about their chances of being picked again. He claimed some players have already been excluded on these grounds.
“I think that’s what you have seen,” said Grant.
“You will have noticed that with some of the selections we have had. That’s what has happened. There was no doubt about that. Myself, Alex and James [McFadden] see a situation where the ultimate for us was to get picked for the national team.
“If you don’t want to play, no problem. We’re not going to force you, we’re not going to fight and ask you to come. If you don’t want to play for your national team, that’s it. You will be very, very fortunate if you get selected again.
“If you don’t want to play through injuries, that’s completely different,” he added. “But if it’s down to the fact that you don’t want to play, I don’t think you will be back in. You know proud Alex was to get the caps he did. He still hasn’t retired yet!”
Grant understands the demands placed on the modern player.
But he stressed the pride that comes from playing for your country should be as strongly felt now as it ever was. He earned two Scotland caps and desperately wishes he had won more.
“You had a dream to play for the club you supported,” the former Celtic midfielder said. “And hopefully if you do well for them, you can play for your national team. That will never ever change.
“I don’t care how much money you’ve got: that’s the ultimate, representing your country at any level. If you can do that, it means you’re doing well at your day job. That should never change.
“For me, that was the ultimate. Celtic, as a player, was my dream but the ultimate for me was to play for the national team.
“Unfortunately, I never got that opportunity many times,” added Grant.
“I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t see myself as an international player. But I would love to have been in that hall of fame with something like 100 caps alongside some of the greats.”
Grant won’t allow reluctant conscripts or injury woes to excuse Scotland failing to sit top of their group following Tuesday’s clash with Israel at Hampden. “Of course you want everyone available, you hope people get through their games,” he said.
“You can talk about build-ups and system once you’ve picked your squad. But until the last club game is played beforehand then it’s always a concern.
“This time there’s been unforeseen circumstances, guys you’re bringing in are going back with injuries. So that’s disappointing. But you have to deal with it.
“However, we know we’ve got quality players here and you just hope when the games come everyone’s
prepared and ready.
“We can’t make excuses. We’ve been in football long enough and we know injuries are part of the game.”