Scott Brown was the first Celtic player out for the warm up before Saturday’s derby…
Scotland fans must find themselves experiencing a sense of deja vu. No, not because Alex McLeish is the manager again or that we’ll be sitting twiddling our thumbs at home during the World Cup, but because Scott Brown has retired from international football for the second time.
This time there won’t be a change of heart, this time Scotland will lose their captain. And whilst Brown will undoubtedly be missed, it presents an exciting opportunity for someone else to step up and take over the role. Moreover, whoever is made captain could give us some insight into McLeish’s intent as Scotland manager second time around.
This writer like many others hopes a fresh approach will be taken by the former Rangers boss. One where younger players with less international experience are given an opportunity. You’d like to think that because he only has one campaign McLeish will take this perceived risk and try something new. Of course, the worry is that the pressure to win will remain the overwhelming priority.
Making Kieran Tierney the new Scotland captain would certainly be an expression of intent from McLeish. It would suggest a focus on the future of the squad rather than solely the here and now.
So why Kieran Tierney? Firstly, he’s young. Many may argue this isn’t a good thing, but rather means he’s inexperienced at international level. Conversely, this is one of our most exciting young prospects in years who has already broken into the national team and will be there for years to come.
If Tierney is fit and continues to develop he’ll most certainly be one of the first names on the teamsheet. For those of you screaming at your screen that “he’s not even the best left-back in the squad”, just relax. OK, yes Andy Robertson is playing and proving himself at a higher level with Liverpool in the Premier League. However, Tierney will not (and should not) be left out even if Robertson starts at left-back.
Of course, arguably our two best players both play the same position, but Tierney has already shown his versatility. It’s not his preferred position, but the Celtic defender has proven he’s more than reliable at right-back. Similarly, there’s the opportunity to play him in front of Robertson on the left-wing; now wouldn’t that be a formidable duo? After all, Barry Bannan played on the left flank against Slovenia in our last World Cup qualifier; I know who I’d rather have playing in front of Robertson.
The other option is that Tierney plays in the heart of the Scotland defence. This is a role he undertook during the friendly against the Netherlands at Pittodrie. The 20-year-old played alongside Christophe Berra in a 4-4-2. It’s a no-brainer for this writer if the choice is between Tierney, Grant Hanley or Charlie Mulgrew to partner Berra at the back.
He also played as part of a three-man defence in a 3-4-3 for the heartbreaking 2-2 draw against England at Hampden. This would open up a world of possibilities, where the likes of Liam Lindsay, John Souttar and Ross McCrorie could all play at centre-back. Moreover, it means Robertson continues to play left-back and has more freedom to attack.
Furthermore, this is perhaps a simplistic and idealistic outlook, but let’s not forget how good a central defender McLeish was. He could be the man to help Tierney develop as a central defender and make the transition into playing there for his country.
The Celtic left-back has a plethora of qualities that make him the most viable option for the captain’s armband. Sure he’s young, but he seems like a natural leader and has the ability to lead from the front. You don’t get to this standard at such a young age without having an excellent attitude.
It’s his application and attitude that also makes him an ideal candidate. Of course, he’s already captained Celtic and Scotland which is an impressive feat in itself. And despite his young age he has to be deemed an experienced player. He’s played over 100 games for Celtic against some of the top sides in Europe.
He’s fearless and has never seemed fazed during his albeit short career. This is the kind of person we want leading our national team. Someone who is up for the fight and won’t get overwhelmed by the occasion.
The other obvious choice would be Christophe Berra. The Hearts defender has had an excellent season at club level and is an experienced international. That said, this would definitely be more of a short-term appointment given that he’s 33 years old.
Nobody would question Berra’s credentials, but Tierney means we are looking to the future. We’d have a leader for the foreseeable future without the need for change. It’s also important to note that a captain isn’t necessarily the best player in the squad. Darren Fletcher wasn’t and neither was Scott Brown. It’s time to ditch the national team stalwarts who have continuously failed to deliver and move forward. McLeish can put down a marker and begin that process by making Tierney the captain.