Peter Houston defends SPL after Alan Pardew criticism

Assistant Scotland manager Peter Houston has refuted Alan Pardew's damning criticism of the Scottish Premier League.

In discussing his goalkeeper Fraser Forster's loan spell at Celtic this season, the Newcastle manager revealed he was unimpressed with the standard of football north of the border.

Pardew was quoted as saying: "I think he's coming back to a completely different level of football, I'll tell you that now.

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"We have watched that division and watched him all year. We've been disappointed with the quality of the games, other than the occasional Rangers versus Celtic game, and even some of those have been poor."

However, Dundee United chief Houston, who is on international duty as assistant manager with Scotland for the Carling Nations Cup games against Wales tomorrow and Republic of Ireland on Sunday, said: "It's not even worth commenting on it because we have international players playing in the SPL who could walk in to the Newcastle team.

"They play at a very high level in European football, on a number of occasions as well. If you take Rangers, for instance, their runs in Europe in the last couple of years have been fantastic so that's them playing at a high level and in the SPL.

"Scott Brown has played in the Champions League (for Celtic] as well.

"Alan is entitled to his opinion but it is not something with which I agree."

Scotland travel to Dublin today with a question mark over the fitness of Phil Bardsley, who has a hip knock.

Celtic midfielder Kris Commons pulled out on Sunday night with a hamstring injury and Peterborough's Craig Mackail-Smith had to withdraw after his club reached the npower League One play-off final against Huddersfield.

Houston said: "Kris came down to the hotel last night and our medical people had a look at him. His hamstrings are really tight and they can go at any time. We have had it before with other players so, unfortunately, Kris has had to withdraw on the advice of the medical team.

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"Most of the guys appear to have come through unscathed. Phil has a knock on the hip but he says he will be okay."