Record appearance holder Sir Kenny Dalglish believes the lack of home-based players in the current Scotland squad is a sign of the improved quality of personnel available to national team boss Steve Clarke.
Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack and his Celtic counterpart Callum McGregor are the only two outfield players from the cinch Premiership in the 23-man pool for the opening European Championship qualifiers against Cyprus and Spain, with the rest of the group based in England, Belgium and Italy.
Dalglish, who won 102 caps for Scotland between 1971 and 1986, is adamant that scenario has to be viewed in a positive light.
“If you look at the squad prior to Stevie coming in and look at which players he had to pick and which clubs they play for, I think you’d see that the quality of clubs the players are playing for now are much higher than they were then,” said the former Liverpool and Celtic striker.
“They’ve obviously played through some Scottish Premiership games and then they’ve been picked up by several big clubs in England and even abroad. I think, with all due respect, the people in the squad now are playing a higher quality league than the Scottish Premiership.”
Ally McCoist, another former Scotland striker, believes it is not a major surprise that there are only two players from Rangers and Celtic in the squad given that the two Glasgow sides currently do not rely heavily on Scottish players.
“There was always a school of thought, rightly or wrongly, that a very good Scotland team was made up of seven, eight, nine Old Firm players, certainly in my time,” said the ex-Rangers striker and manager.
“The nucleus of the team and the squad was made up of Old Firm players. It’s changed a little bit.
“I think the two Old Firm players in it are excellent players but you just have to look at both Rangers and Celtic to see that a lot of the players are not Scottish, so it would follow on that there will be less numbers in the Scotland squad.”
The only area of the squad heavily reliant on home-based players is the goalkeeping position, with Norwich’s Angus Gunn joined by Hearts’ Zander Clark and Motherwell’s Liam Kelly.
Remarkably, all three of the keepers are uncapped as Scotland adapt to life without David Marshall and Allan McGregor, who have both retired from international football, and Craig Gordon, who suffered a double leg break in December.
McCoist is hoping one of the international rookies steps up and makes a solid claim for the gloves.
“It is a strange one,” he said. “We have to hope the competition makes one of them come out and stand up because the one thing we’ve had in recent years is quality in that position.
“Whether it was Allan McGregor, Craig Gordon or David Marshall, I think we’ve always had a sound goalkeeper. It’s interesting because it’s up for grabs.
“The lads are all competent enough goalkeepers but I just hope one of them comes out – I’m sure they will – and stakes a claim to make the jersey their own. It’s arguably your key position. We’ve always had good strength in that position, and it’s vitally important we get it again.”
As well as Spain and Cyprus, Scotland are in a Euro 2024 qualification group with Georgia and Norway, who boast Manchester City striker Erling Haaland.
McCoist is confident Clarke can lead the Scots to the tournament in Germany next summer.
“I think we can go into this campaign with as much optimism as we’ve had in a long time,” he said.
“I think it’s a good group for us. Spain will understandably be strong favourites but I don’t think there’s a lot between two or three sides after that.
“Haaland’s the standout player in the group by a mile but that aside I genuinely think automatic qualification is a possibility. Looking in from the outside, I’d be very hopeful. If we perform as well as we can, I don’t see any reason we can’t qualify.”
:: Kenny Dalglish and Ally McCoist were promoting Viaplay’s live and exclusive coverage of Scotland v Cyprus and Scotland v Spain. Viaplay is available to stream from viaplay.com or via your TV provider on Sky, Virgin TV and Amazon Prime as an add-on subscription.”