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Life after skipper Brown

By August 22, 2016No Comments

Gordon Strachan insists his Scotland squad remains strong in central midfield following the retirement of Scott Brown.

Strachan could call upon Darren Fletcher, James Morrison, James McArthur, John McGinn, Kevin McDonald and Barry Bannan after naming his squad for Scotland’s opening World Cup qualifier in Malta on September 4.

The Scotland manager revealed he made no attempt to persuade Celtic midfielder Brown, 31, to reconsider his decision to end his international career after 50 appearances, which was announced on Friday but made two weeks earlier.

“Listen, I’m okay there,” Strachan said. “It’s one of our stronger areas. Weaker without him, but still strong.

“It will be quieter. I loved his company, I think everybody liked his company.

“But we get on with it. We thank him for what he did. We understand the decision he has come to, as a player myself, who had 50 caps, and we respect his decision.

“His decision is for the best of Scott Brown. At times in your career you go: ‘What’s the best for me? What’s the best for my family?’

“And he has decided at this moment in time that this will be the best for him.”

Strachan has made no announcement on a new skipper, a decision which might be complicated by the fact that Darren Fletcher has not been a regular starter since recovering from the long-term illness that cost him the captaincy.

Strachan said: ” I have only spoken to guys to ask about their playing time and their fitness. I have not really spoken to Darren. So, when that comes round, I will speak to Darren about it.”

There was no room in Strachan’s 27-man squad for Shaun Maloney, who was arguably Scotland’s most impressive player during their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

The 33-year-old came off the bench to score in Hull’s Premier League win at Swansea on Saturday but Strachan does not feel he is properly match-fit.

“I spoke to Shaun after the France game and said we really need to get more games in this squad,” he said.

“Shaun has not had many games over the last period, and I also said to him that the players in your area at the moment there are people playing regular and playing very well. So he understands that.

“But don’t take that as finished, that’s for sure. He has a great fitness level, but I think some people need games.”

Hearts goalkeeper Jack Hamilton retains his place as understudy in the absence of the injured Allan McGregor, while Tynecastle team-mate Callum Paterson is challenging Alan Hutton at right-back. Gordon Greer, 36, retains his place as central defensive cover while Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson are vying for the left-back role.

Competing for the attacking midfield roles are Ikechi Anya, Oliver Burke, Bannan, the resurgent James Forrest, Matt Ritchie, Robert Snodgrass and the sole Rangers squad member, Barrie McKay.

But there is no room for striker Ross McCormack, who missed his own stag do in Las Vegas to accept a call-up for post-season friendlies against France and Italy.

McCormack was the most in-demand player in the Sky Bet Championship this summer after scoring 42 goals in two seasons for Fulham, with Aston Villa beating Norwich to his £12million signing.

Strachan watched the 30-year-old as Villa drew 0-0 with Derby on Saturday but it was County striker Chris Martin who made the squad along with Steven Fletcher, Leigh Griffiths and Steven Naismith.

The Scotland boss said: “You have to have a variation of players when you’re picking your squad so you can change the game, change the way you want to play at times.

“With the strikers, you have to have more rounded. I wish we could have everything but guys have their different strengths.”

He added: “I have got to think what is best for the whole group.”

Griffiths appears certain to make more of a contribution to this campaign than the failed Euro 2016 qualification bid, which amounted to 15 minutes in Georgia.

The Celtic striker has continued where he left off following his 40-goal return last season and impressed Strachan in the 5-2 Champions League win over Hapoel Be’er Sheva.

“He was terrific last week,” Strachan said. ” Not only did he score two goals, he was involved in two goals. He is scoring different sort of goals, the movement out the box is getting better over the last couple of years. So he is in a good place at the moment, that’s for sure.”

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