Watt can take Scotland up a level, says Strachan

By Craig Turnbull

Gordon Strachan believes Charlton Athletic striker Tony Watt could take Scotland up to the next level in international football.

Watt, formerly of Celtic, was a surprise inclusion in Strachan’s squad for the upcoming friendlies against Czech Republic and Denmark ahead of the start of the World Cup qualifiers in September.

The 22-year-old, who shot to fame as a teenager after scoring a wonderful solo effort for Celtic in the Champions League against Barcelona, is currently on loan at Blackburn Rovers in the Championship and has seven goals this season.

Watt hasn’t powered on in his career in the way he perhaps threatened to when he burst on to the scene on that historic night at Celtic Park back in 2012, but Strachan sees enough potential in Watt to convince him he could become a game changer for Scotland.

Watt can take Scotland up a level, says Strachan PLZ Soccer

07/11/12 UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
CELTIC v BARCELONA (2-1)
CELTIC PARK – GLASGOW
Celtic’s Tony Watt celebrates after scoring what turned out to be the winning goal

“If you watch Scotland over the past couple of years we score goals after eight or nine passes which is hard work,” he said.

“You can throw a ball up to Tony, at his best, and he can beat two people and stick it in the back of the net.

“We need somebody like that because most international teams have someone who can change them from being decent into very good.

“If Robert Lewandowski was in our squad we’d be European champions.

“Gareth Bale is another, Ibrahimovic of Sweden makes them go up a level so we’re looking for players – and it might not be Tony – who can take us from being a right good decent side to being a smashing side.”

Watt was just one of a number of changes to the Scotland side as Strachan looks to the future.

Aberdeen’s Kenny McLean has been given his first call up to face Czech Republic on March 24, while five days later Leeds United defender Liam Cooper, Nottingham Forest youngster Oliver Burke, Celtic defender Kieran Tierney, Hibernian midfielder John McGinn and Brighton attacker Jamie Murphy have been included in the squad to face Denmark.

Watt can take Scotland up a level, says Strachan PLZ Soccer

05/03/16 WILLIAM HILL SCOTTISH CUP QUARTER FINAL
RANGERS v DUNDEE (4-0)
IBROX – GLASGOW
Rangers captain Lee Wallace thanks the home support

But there were a few names conspicuous by their absence including the likes of Jordan Rhodes, Ross McCormack, Aberdeen’s Graeme Shinnie, Johnny Russell and Rangers full-back Lee Wallace.

Strachan though assured those left out he had faith in their ability and wanted the chance to see others play.

“There are guys that I know who can do a job but there’s no point in bringing them along and depressing them, taking them around Europe and maybe not getting a game because I want to see the other guys playing.

“I don’t think that would be beneficial for them.

“They know I can trust these guys, they’ve been in and involved the squad I know what they can do. I must look and see if there is anything out there that is better and players understand that.”

The games might be friendlies in name but Strachan dismissed suggestions that the result was less important.

“Whatever you think about football, winning is the most important thing. You have to have that.

“You can also play in games when you get beat but you can walk away as a manager and say I liked what I seen tonight. I liked us a group, I liked individuals. You can sometimes get benefits but winning is what you want to try to do.”

Squad to face Czech Republic

Goalkeepers
Scott Bain (Dundee)
Allan McGregor (Hull City)

Defenders
Christophe Berra (Ipswich Town)
Gordon Greer (Brighton and Hove Albion)
Alan Hutton (Aston Villa)
Russell Martin (Norwich City)
Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic)
Andrew Robertson (Hull City)
Steven Whittaker (Norwich City)

Midfielders
Ikechi Anya (Watford)
Barry Bannan (Sheffield Wednesday)
Darren Fletcher (West Bromwich Albion)
Kevin McDonald (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Kenny McLean (Aberdeen)
Matt Phillips (Queens Park Rangers)
Robert Snodgrass (Hull City)

Forwards
Steven Fletcher (Olympique de Marseille*)
Steven Naismith (Norwich City)
Tony Watt (Blackburn Rovers**)

Squad to face Denmark

Goalkeepers
Craig Gordon (Celtic)
David Marshall (Cardiff City)

Defenders
Ikechi Anya (Watford)
Liam Cooper (Leeds United)
Gordon Greer (Brighton and Hove Albion)
Grant Hanley (Blackburn Rovers)
Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic)
Kieran Tierney (Celtic)
Steven Whittaker (Norwich City)

Midfielders
Liam Bridcutt (Leeds United*)
Scott Brown (Celtic)
Oliver Burke (Nottingham Forest)
James Forrest (Celtic)
John McGinn (Hibernian)
Jamie Murphy (Brighton and Hove Albion)
Matt Ritchie (Bournemouth)

Forwards
Steven Fletcher (Olympique de Marseille*)
Leigh Griffiths (Celtic)
Chris Martin (Derby County)

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