End-of-season tours are a bad idea
There were undoubtedly positives to come out of the trip to South and Central America. No fewer than nine players won their first caps. Many more gained invaluable experience against top class international opposition in packed stadiums on foreign soil. Bonds, too, will have been forged among the squad members in their time away which will not be easily broken and that will only be to the benefit of the side going forward.
But it could all have been very messy indeed. A plethora of Celtic and English-based players were excused from travelling at the request of their clubs. There were no fewer than six call-offs from the original 24-man squad named by Alex McLeish. Avoiding heavy and damaging defeats was the best the manager could reasonably have hoped for.
The tour was agreed when Scotland were managerless back in January. It is an exercise that is unlikely to be repeated in future. Unless, that is, the national team qualify for the finals of a major tournament. The calendar is full enough and the demands on players excessive as it is.
There is talent in the Ladbrokes Premiership
Gordon Strachan was frequently castigated for ignoring players in the top flight in Scotland outside of Celtic during his four and half year spell in charge of his country. He would argue that was not the case. But whatever the truth of the matter it is not an accusation that can be levelled at his successor Alex McLeish.
His former Aberdeen team mate has been only too willing to give promising footballers who ply their trade outwith the champions their chance. Scott McKenna, the Aberdeen centre half who started against Peru and captained his country against Mexico, was once again the pick of the bunch. He will hope to be involved in the Nations League game against Albania in September.
But Stephen O’Donnell of Kilmarnock, who started both games, and Graeme Shinnie of Aberdeen, who finally made his long-awaited international debut, will have done their cause no harm. Even Lewis Stevenson of Hibernian, who has, let’s face it, his work cut out getting in the squad at left back, showed he can be relied upon if needed. Stranger things have happened.
Scott McTominay is fully committed to playing for Scotland
When the Manchester United midfielder withdrew from the national squad for the friendly against Hungary in Budapest back in March alarm bells started ringing. Had he thought better of his decision to represent the country of his father’s birth after making his debut against Costa Rica and decided to defect to England where he was born and brought up?
A nation feared the worst. A player is only cap-tied when he has featured in a competitive fixture.
But coming away with Scotland on their end-of-season tour and remaining for the duration of the trip despite not featuring against Mexico at the weekend underlined the 21-year-old is quite relaxed about his decision and has no intention of switching. He looks as if he has much to offer too.
Matt Phillips isn’t a striker
The West Bromwich Albion winger may have netted the winning goal against Hungary in the Groupama Arena in March after being deployed as a lone striker. And he put in a powerful shift up front with limited service in the meeting with Peru in the National Stadium in Lima a week ago today. But he is far more effective when utilised out wide.
Johnny Russell has a lot to offer despite playing in the MLS
The former Dundee United and Derby County striker was called back into the national squad because of the players who were unavailable to travel. But he showed he can be an important asset for his country even though he is now based in the United States where he is turning out for Sporting Kansas City. His cut inside and chip to Oliver McBurnie nearly set up a goal against Mexico in the Azteca Stadium on Saturday.
Russia 2018 will be better for the presence of Peru and Mexico.
It is unlikely that either Peru or Mexico will return victorious from Russia 2018. But they are both skilful and entertaining sides and the finals will benefit from them, not to mention their colourful and passionate supporters, being there. Vamos Peru! Vamos Me-hee-co!