12 Mar Alex McLeish challenges uncapped players to prove their worth for Scotland
Scotland manager Alex McLeish has challenged the nine uncapped players in his squad to prove they belong at international level.
McLeish has given first call-ups to six players for friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary, which kick off his second spell in charge later this month.
Hearts goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin, Wolves left-back Barry Douglas, Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna, Hibernian midfielder Dylan McGeouch and Manchester United’s Scott McTominay join striker Oli McBurnie, who has scored five goals in seven matches since joining Barnsley on loan from Swansea.
In addition, Millwall goalkeeper Jordan Archer, Fulham midfielder Kevin McDonald and Rangers winger Jamie Murphy have been given another chance to win their first caps.
McLeish was unable to select a number of experienced players through injury, including Craig Gordon, James Morrison, Barry Bannan and Steven Fletcher, while Christophe Berra drops out as he nurses an ankle problem.
The likes of Allan McGregor and Russell Martin have won places but other experienced players failed to make the pool, including Chris Martin, Robert Snodgrass and Darren Fletcher, who is struggling for match action at Stoke.
McLeish said: “It is a fresh start. There’s a couple of the experienced players not in the squad but I know what they can do. I want to have a look at some other players.
“It’s a great opportunity. We want them to play the way they have been playing for their clubs and try to challenge themselves to become even better.”
McLeish confirmed McGeouch made a “late run” into the squad after watching the former Celtic player shine in Hibernian’s victory over Hearts on Friday.
“The next step is the guys prove it,” he added. “They have to now show they can live with other international teams, improve their game and see if they can raise the bar to the highest level they can possibly go.
“I really feel they are capable. The big key to step up is mentality and I have seen it in a lot of the players. They have that and they just have to maintain that confidence and go out there and believe they can win every game. They have to have that belief playing for the national team.
“I had a year in Belgium and I used by and large young players and a few of them moved to greater things. I’m not saying I’m responsible for all that but one of the kids (Sergej Milinkovic-Savic) moved on to Lazio, he is now linked with Man United and everybody in the Premier League. Another moved to Leicester, Wilfred Ndidi.
“Myself and Alex Rae worked with a lot of young players and enhanced their game and helped them to be ready for the big, bad world of football.”
But McLeish refused to shut the door on Darren Fletcher or any other player.
“I don’t think anybody has retired as yet, apart from Scott Brown,” he said. “In terms of Darren, he is not playing at the moment. Again, he is a guy I know what we can get out of him.
“I did speak to Darren and said: ‘Look, I’m ruling nothing out.’ The future is still there for guys like Darren.”