Peru v Scotland
McLeish hoping for fringe benefits from friendlies
Scotland boss Alex McLeish will take on Peru and Mexico with an inexperienced squad due to a host of call-offs (pic: SNS Group)
New Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell has a ‘to do’ list the length of his arm as he seeks to plot a better way forward for the game in this country.
Included in a raft of things for Stewart Regan’s successor to examine as he looks to ‘inspire the nation’ should be the scheduling of international friendlies, particularly at this time of year.
No sooner had Alex McLeish named his Scotland squad for the friendlies in Peru and Mexico than the inevitable phone calls began bringing news of various withdrawals, with Stuart Armstrong, Barry Douglas, Ryan Fraser, Allan McGregor, Matt Ritchie and John Souttar all pulling out.
Dealing with such call-offs in such circumstances are part and parcel of a national manager’s job but the potential for such upheaval is greater when matches are arranged at the end of a long and arduous season.
There can be unfortunate injuries, which come with the territory. Players often play through niggles until the league campaign finishes and then undergo surgery to resolve any lingering problems. General fatigue can also be an issue, with seasons getting longer and longer – a string of Celtic players were left out by McLeish on that basis.
Factor in play-offs and European finals (Andrew Robertson was on duty for Liverpool against Real Madrid in Kiev), and there are any number of reasons why players may not be available.
Whatever the reasons, early summer is far from ideal for such fixtures, particularly when they’re played 6000 miles away.
The Scotland squad jetted half-way round the world for the two friendlies shorn of a host of regulars, with the manager admitting it is a chance for the fringe players, including late additions Chris Cadden, Stephen O’Donnell and Scott Bain, to impress.
McLeish even considered calling up US-based players such as Danny Wilson and Sam Nicholson. Not because their form warranted it but because they were relatively well located geographically in Colorado. Johnny Russell is actually flying in from Kansas for the game against Mexico on Sunday.
As it is, the squad features nine uncapped players, with Bain, O’Donnell, Cadden, Lewis Stevenson, Dylan McGeouch, Graeme Shinnie, Lewis Morgan, Jordan Archer and Jon McLaughlin all looking to make their debut.
Looking ahead to the game in Lima against the World Cup-bound Peruvians, McLeish said: “It has been very difficult at this particular time with the end of the season and players playing on with injuries in the last few weeks.
“We have made some concessions with James McArthur and that kind of thing but the late call-offs were disappointing. But I am not blaming the players.
“I’ve got to compliment the guys who have come out. They are bursting to play for Scotland and we’ll try to put on a good show.
“When you look at the squad, the players that have been picked have all been in excellent form this season.
“I know there’s not a lot of them who are seasoned internationals but I don’t think there’s a lack of talent out there or a lack of legs.”
Kick-off at the Estadio Nacional is 2am UK time tomorrow.