Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has admitted he will resist the temptation to start with any young players against France in Metz for fear of doing them more harm than good.
The friendly encounter with the much-vaunted Euro 2016 hosts as they seek to set the sold-out Stade Saint-Symphorien alight going into the tournament must rank as one of the most arduous assignments in the international game. It is a test that Strachan considers he must pick an experienced side for – especially on the back of his side struggling in the 1-0 loss to Italy in Malta last Saturday.
“We’ll be playing against a different system but there’ll be changes to the team because it wasn’t easy against Italy, they had a lot of running to do, especially the ones in midfield. Will there be any young kids in? I’d like to give them a chance somewhere along the line but you can’t just throw them into something like this because you can knock them back if it’s too overwhelming for them.”
Strachan called for context over the clamour to give a second cap to Hibernian midfielder John McGinn and a debut to Rangers winger Barrie McKay following outstanding club seasons,
“You have to remember that Barrie McKay and John McGinn have come from the Scottish Championship,” the Scotland manager said. “I don’t see anyone getting bought even from the Scottish Premiership to go to a top league, and this is the league below that they’ve been playing in.
“I like what they’ve done, don’t get me wrong, but everyone in this French team plays in the Champions League. They have world-class players and it’s a different thing altogether. I have to make sure they’re completely ready.
“We’re not shy, we’ve put players in: Oliver Burke, Kieran Tierney, John McGinn, but you can only put one or two maximum in at the one time. And this is another level from the Czech Republic and Denmark [games in March]. This is the top. But you have to remember Barrie has come in and worked with us and that’s the way it should be. You very rarely come right into a club team and get thrown into a top European tie. You bring them in gently. I got a league cup match against Partick Thistle.”
And this evening’s encounter, Scotland’s last fixture before they begin their World Cup qualifying campaign in September, is anything but a gentle game. “Which is why we took it,” Strachan said. “It had to be a good game because it’s hard to keep your concentration in June.
“Again it’s a gamble but you hope it works and if we can go away with another couple of players added to our squad, great. And it’s worth taking the young lads in those circumstances. I’m hoping to get them on the pitch. It’s up to them after that to decide that they’ve liked the experience and go back and work harder and make themselves better.”