Scotland fans must find themselves experiencing a sense of deja vu. No, not because Alex…
Alex McLeish announced his first Scotland squad this week since returning to the managerial hot seat. There were a few familiar faces from the Gordon Strachan era but overall his selection garnered a largely positive response.
You can read our thoughts on the squad below. Do you strongly agree or disagree with our take? Then let us know what you make of the squad in the comments below.
SCOTLAND | Here's your Scotland squad to take on Costa Rica and Hungary later this month. 🏴 pic.twitter.com/LNBTM4zz1P
— Scottish FA (@ScottishFA) March 12, 2018
Stefan Bienkowski: I thought it was really positive and encouraging. My main gripe with Gordon Strachan was that he seemed to simply ignore the Scottish Premiership’s young talent and whether through his own genuine opinions or perhaps some savvy PR, Alex McLeish has opted to go in a different direction and that’s why we’ve seen more Scottish-based players. And particularly young, exciting ones.
James Cairney: I’m happy to see Jon McLaughlin in the squad. He’s been performing at a tremendous level for Hearts this season and I’d be keen to give him some game time in the coming friendlies. I don’t know much about Jordan Archer but with Craig Gordon getting older, we need to look at future alternatives and I think McLaughlin deserves a chance. The midfield looks particularly strong, while I’m also really pleased to see Jason Cummings and Oli McBurnie being given a chance up front in Leigh Griffiths’ absence.
Niall Murray: There are still a few names I’d rather not appear in the squad, but overall it’s a great statement of intent from McLeish. We now know he’s not afraid to turn to youth and in-form Scottish Premiership players… for friendlies at least. I’m really pleased Barry Douglas and Callum Paterson are both on there. Similarly, it would’ve been a crime had Dylan McGeouch not been given the call. He has been arguably as good if not better than his Hibs teammate John McGinn this season but has received much less attention.
Thanks for all the messages of support, feel very honoured to be called up for the national team all the hard work and sacrifices was worth it for this moment 💪🏽 great day for me and my family 🏴
— Barry Douglas (@barrydouglas03) March 12, 2018
SB: Yeah, I’ve often been quite vocal with how I feel about Charlie Mulgrew and his seemingly unstoppable participation in the national team. His inclusion – alongside Grant Hanley – is a little disappointing considering guys like Liam Lindsay and John Souttar have both missed out. But I suppose Rome wasn’t built in a day and we can’t exactly expect McLeish to just completely wipe the slate clean and start from scratch without any experience in that team.
NM: Yeah as much as I think it’s a bit harsh on Liam Lindsay in particular, McLeish might be thinking it’d be too bold to name a Scotland squad without any experienced centre-backs.
JC: A few, but not too many. Sure, Mulgrew, Russell Martin and Hanley are still in the squad but apart from them most of Strachan’s hangers-on have been dropped. Some players were always going to miss out on the squad and defence is probably the only area of the pitch where having older players reaps tangible results. I guess what I’m trying to say is that not every young player could have made the squad and if concessions had to be made in one position, then defence is the most logical choice.
NM: At least Charlie Mulgrew is a utility man who can plug holes in a plethora of positions if required. I reckon if Christophe Berra was fit then Hanley probably wouldn’t be in the squad, but I might be wrong. The likes of James Morrison and James McArthur aren’t playing well enough to merit a call-up. Robert Snodgrass is in decent form for Aston Villa so maybe he’ll feel slightly hard done by.
JC: Personally, I’m pleased Snoddy’s out. He’s had his chance at this level and he’s largely underwhelmed: it’s about time Ryan Christie or Callum McGregor were given a chance. I’d much rather see those two in the squad than an almost certainly past-his-best Snodgrass.
SB: The assurances and belief both of you are showing in Mulgrew is deeply disturbing to me… but I completely agree on Snodgrass. I wrote a piece on him last year, explaining why he hasn’t actually brought all that much to the national team for quite some time and it should take something special for him to be knocking on the door again.
SB: I’d like to make it clear at this point that I’m a fully-fledged, card-carrying member of the “Kieran Tierney for centre-back” campaign. Yes, he’s an outstanding left back, but with Andy Robertson flying down the left flank for Liverpool every game and possibly Douglas doing the same on the left wing then the Celtic captain-to-be could be put to good use adding pace and genuine, defensive talent to the centre of the pitch. I’d like to see McLeish use wing-backs – Paterson/James Forrest on the right and Robertson on the left – with Tierney, Berra (I believe he wasn’t called up through injury) and then a third, young central defender, such as Scott McKenna.
NM: Yeah, what the hell, I want to join the campaign too. I wrote an article recently calling for Tierney to replace Scott Brown as captain and I was met with calls of ‘he’s not even our best left-back!’ He doesn’t have to be, stick him in the centre next to Berra to gain experience. Look how much Souttar has improved at Hearts this season for that very reason. Moreover, given McLeish’s pedigree in that position, he may be the man to get the best out of Tierney there. Paterson is a must at right-back, he deserves the opportunity and of course, Robertson on the left is a no-brainer at this point. If Berra is out then why not play a back three of Tierney, Martin and McKenna? And, similar to what you’re saying Stefan, have attacking wing-backs.
JC: If this is McLeish’s first-choice defence then the first thing that jumps out at me is the lack of pace centrally. A lack of pace means that the defence will be forced to play fairly deep in all likelihood, which means that whoever’s playing central midfield will have a lot of ground to cover. That suits the game of McGinn, for instance, very well but any player starting in central midfield will have to work hard to make up for our creaking back line.
SB: I’m really interested in what happens to McGeouch’s reputation over the next year. This kid has gone from a Celtic reject (of sorts) to Hibs’ best-kept secret. And now it looks as though he’ll get a chance to prove himself for the national team too. If he performs in these friendlies to the same ability we’ve seen at Easter Road this season is it too crazy to suggest that a team like Celtic could be interested in actually buying him back? His contract expires this summer and he’s surely going to get all sorts of offers to leave Easter Road. He could prove a really useful replacement for Brown’s pendulum-like passing for Scotland and perhaps one day for Celtic too.
Delighted to get my first international call up today… huge honour😃 thanks for all the kind messages, really appreciate it 🙌🏻🙏🏻
— Dylan McGeouch (@DMcGeouch) March 12, 2018
JC: Scotland’s midfield options have been our biggest asset for years now and this latest squad is no exception. Obviously, Brown is no longer part of the squad but, as good as he is, I don’t see it hurting our midfield too much. Sure, he’s a top player but we have so many options at centre mid, each with their own skillsets, so I think we should try and exploit that versatility. Delighted to see McGregor particularly – for my money, he’s our best attacking midfielder.
SB: Nobody has mentioned the big, Manchester United-themed elephant in the room…
NM: Yeah I mentioned above, but Scotland have options. Trying out McGinn and McGeouch together at international level would be interesting and I’m excited to see more of what Scott McTominay can do. He’s a tall, physical player which is something we’ve been crying out for. I mean don’t forget, we’re small and genetically inferior. Isn’t that right Mr Strachan? Forrest has arguably had his best ever season. He’s now a complete player who is more effective in the attacking third but has also shown a significant improvement in the defensive side of his game. Similarly, it was a crime that McGregor wasn’t given many opportunities under Strachan given his form. I also think Jamie Murphy could do a good job for Scotland depending on the formation they go with. He’s been excellent on the left-hand side of attack for Rangers since arriving in January.
JC: Ludicrous excitement and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Mark my words: McBurnie will bring the 2022 World Cup back to Scotland.
NM: McBurnie > Will Grigg… maybe.
Honoured to get my first call up for Scotland. Very proud day for me and my family💙 https://t.co/YTbbNlP2sZ
— Oli McBurnie (@oli_mcburnie) March 12, 2018
SB: I’m really excited about McBurnie. It’s still early days – I mean Chris Martin has made a career out of being a competent Championship striker and I’ve no intention of ever seeing him in a Scotland top again – but he looks like a really exciting prospect. I feel like these two friendlies will basically be used to see who can be the Plan B behind Griffiths, who does, unfortunately, have a tendency to get injured each and every season. I’m a big fan of the Celtic striker but we need backup players that can slot in and play a similar style of football to him. McBurnie and possibly Cummings can probably do that.
JC: Ultimately, the two are fighting it out to be backup for when Griffiths can’t play for whatever reason or if we need to change things up during a game. For that reason, I’d be more inclined to opt for McBurnie. Don’t get me wrong, I like Cummings but I think he’s a similar type of player to Griffiths – if we’re tying or losing a game, we need a different option from the bench and that’s what McBurnie provides. I’d be worried that subbing Griffiths for Cummings is too much of a like-for-like switch.