BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
National team boss Gordon Strachan has laid down the gauntlet to Scotland’s most promising prospects to force their way into his World Cup 2018 plans.
Strachan will run the rule over the next generation as he assists youth boss Ricky Sbragia ahead of the upcoming Under-21 Euro 2017 qualifier against Ukraine next Friday.
With the likes of John McGinn, Sam Nicholson, Ryan Christie, Callum Paterson and Jason Cummings impressing at club level, Strachan insists the “door is open” for any youngster who performs consistently to make the step up into the senior set-up.
And he cites Hull City star Andy Robertson – who has been named in the under-21 squad – as a prime example.
“We have introduced some of the younger players to the squad already, such as Callum McGregor, Ryan Gauld, Lewis Macleod and, most recently, Graeme Shinnie,” said Strachan.
“The under-21s should look no further than players like Grant Hanley, Jordan Rhodes, James Forrest and Andy Robertson to see that it is possible to force yourself into the senior squad and stay there if you are performing well enough and consistently enough for your clubs.
“The main focus for the players should be to beat Ukraine and maintain a challenge in the group but I have said often enough that the door is open for any player who impresses over a period of time, regardless of age.
“Both Ricky and I are pleased that Andy will be joining us for this match. It is a match that we want to win and to do that we need the best players available.
“Andy is still eligible and at his age it is important to play as often as you can and build-up that experience.”
After taking the step of assisting at under-21 level, Strachan says he is willing to get his hands dirty as the under-21s chase a vital win at St Mirren Park.
He told the Scottish FA website: “I’m really looking forward to helping Ricky and taking a closer look at the younger age-group of players.
“It’s an important qualifier for the under-21s and I will be out on the training pitch and there to help out the backroom team in whatever way Ricky requires.”