BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
FRASER AIRD has revealed that former Scotland midfielder Ian Durrant played a key role in him pledging allegiance to Canada as the Falkirk winger prepares to line up against the nation that has shaped his career.
The 22-year-old, much like international teammate Scott Arfield, heads into Wednesday’s friendly at Easter Road with experience of representing both countries, having played for Scotland at under-17 and under-19 level.
He was presented with a career-defining choice as a teenager when Canada boss Colin Miller selected him for the 2013 Gold Cup. Still reluctant to commit either way, he declined the call-up.
However, the ex-Rangers prospect did ultimately choose the Canucks, making his senior debut in a 1-1 draw against Ghana in October 2015. The upcoming clash against Scotland will see him win his fifth cap.
Aird has previously noted that former managers Ally McCoist and Mark Warburton offered their advice – however it was Durrant, during his time as assistant manager at Ibrox, who delivered the most affecting words to the impressionable youngster.
He recalled: ‘It was very difficult at the time, making that decision as such a young person. I’d played with Scotland by that point when Colin Miller called me and said he was going to put me in the Gold Cup squad in 2013. I was only 17.
“I’d played with Canada at under-15 level before I moved to Scotland as well, so I was in two minds, I didn’t know whether I wanted to go or stay and play with Scotland.
“I was playing [for Scotland] at my age group here but getting a call-up to play first team internationally was something I really had to think about. At that time I said I would leave it, because I wanted to concentrate on my club football. It was a tough decision for a 17-year-old to make.
“I was close to Ian Durrant at the time and, although he’d played for Scotland and was a great servant, he was the one who said I had to make the right decision for myself, not for anyone else.
“He said I had to feel in my heart that I was happy to represent the country I was going to choose. That was one of the key talks that swayed me towards Canada. I feel Canadian, 100 per cent. I was born there, spent the first 16 years of my life there, and that’s where I felt I should be.”
As if there was not enough intrigue surrounding Aird in this fixture, the contest could see him pitched directly against former Rangers teammate Lee Wallace, who has been named in the Scotland squad.
“I actually sent Lee a message congratulating him on his call-up,” Aird continued. “Hopefully we get a chance to play against each other down that side of the park. That would be brilliant.
“He fully deserves the recognition for Scotland, he’s been excellent with Rangers this year and a great player. He’s a great pro on and off the park and was one of the older ones when I first broke into the Rangers team.
“We were working our way through the divisions and he was always there for support. I don’t have a bad word to say about him – he’s been really good for my career.”
Despite a gulf of 50 places between the nations in the FIFA world rankings, Aird has warned Scotland – desperately in need of a morale boosting win ahead of their crunch qualifier against Slovenia – to underestimate Canada at their peril.
“We have the Gold Cup coming up in July and we only have one more game – at home to Curacao in June – before the tournament,” added Aird. “So it’s a huge chance for boys to impress the manager and put on a good performance for the country.
“Maybe our world ranking doesn’t show how good a team we are, I think we should be a lot higher than we are. It’s 11 players on the park and it’s about who wants it more – I’d say definitely do not underestimate us come Wednesday.”