Another campaign, another failure from Scotland. The seeds for this one were planted right at the start, when we drew with Lithuania at home. That one game killed the chance to qualify, as all other results after that were either expected or decent.
But already, a number of Rangers fans will be asking “who cares?”. There are various reasons why so many have turned away from supporting Scotland. One of those reasons is a notion that there’s a bias against picking Rangers players, that Strachan doesn’t give our players the correct consideration. We’ve decided to have a look at that. Earlier, Gavin presented the case for the inclusion of the following players past and present. Here, I state why they haven’t been picked, and why that’s not been down to anything other than ability or circumstance.
There’s never been a player who has experienced what Wallace has during their Rangers career. In fact, you may struggle to find anyone in the game with a similar story.
He has, of course, been involved in Scotland squads over recent years, but it’s been inconsistent at best. Many Rangers fans would have preferred that he rejected call-ups at certain times. But does he deserve to be involved more?
Right now, Wallace is feeling the effects of his loyalty to us. He was a big prospect when he signed, when no one could foresee what was coming. At his best, it’s clear he’s a very good player. Unfortunately, the years playing at a lower level have held him back. He hasn’t needed to be his best every week to get by, and as such, the potential development we hoped for hasn’t transpired.
Added to that, the emergence of Tierney and Robertson means that left back is easily the strongest position in the Scotland squad. There’s no other area where that depth of option is available. Had Wallace been playing at a higher level, he’d have established himself as Scotland’s best option before they broke through, and might just have fended them off. Now, he has younger, better players in front of him.
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He’s done well in most games he’s played for Scotland. He’s shown he’s more than capable in the league. However, he’s 30 now, with limited experience in top-flight football. Scotland no longer needs him, sadly.
Like Wallace, McKay has been involved in some Scotland squads over the years. Again though, it’s not been an established selection.
I’m a fan of McKay. I think he has the talent to go far in the game. The elements you can’t teach, like will-to-win and that selfish desire to improve, seem lacking at the moment. His current form seems to mirror his time at Rangers – a fast start, impressing many fans, then a loss of form and a spell on the bench. Players being inconsistent is expected, but that baseline level of performance when you’re not playing well is what keeps you in a team. McKay doesn’t look like he wants to learn how to do that. Whilst at Rangers, the biggest argument for him being in the Scotland squad was “he’s a better player than McGinn”. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement.
Someone with his first touch, vision and ability to beat players is seemingly what Scotland are crying out for. No doubt, McKay will get other chances in future squads. With some of the options in wider attacking areas, he’ll have to fight to become a first choice.
Due to family circumstances, Dorrans asked not to be involved in Scotland squads. If he wasn’t picked to start a game, he asked to be excused. The reasons are understandable.
What it’s meant, though, is that he has nowhere near as many caps as he should. At the age of 30, he’s being overlooked completely as players like Armstrong, McGinn and McGregor breakthrough.
Seven years ago, Scotland played Spain at Hampden. We lost 3-2 in a cracking game of football. That night, Scotland had an attacking midfield 3 of Naismith, Morrison and Dorrans. They looked like they’d be excellent for years to come. In reality, I’m not sure we ever saw it again.
At that point, Dorrans was 23, looking like a star in the making. It just never transpired, for various reasons. Now, there are debates most weeks as to his contribution at Rangers in the short time he’s been here. He certainly has the talent to play for Scotland, but at his age, he needs to be clearly better than the younger guys looking for a chance. Right now, that’s difficult to argue for.
When Wilson first played for Rangers as a teenager, I doubt there was anyone who felt his career would go as it has. Scotland has a real dearth of decent centre-halves. Christophe Berra, Charlie Mulgrew, Grant Hanley and Russell Martin are our four best options there right now. I think it’s fair to say it’s a position where we’re struggling.
Danny Wilson will be 26 by the end of the year. If he was going to be an established internationalist, you’d expect him to be there by now. He’s had 5 caps, but the last of those came 6 years ago. During those 6 years, he’s had multiple loan spells, and a run at Hearts and Rangers. At least half of those games have been in the Championship. He’s also seemingly quite injury prone now.
The move to Liverpool at a young age didn’t work out for him, and now it would seem he’s unlikely to be the sort of defender he promised to be. Rangers fans would have McCrorie ahead of him already. Whilst that’s a bit premature, there’s a good chance the young defender will get more games this season. It’s rather damning that Wilson has played so much in the last few seasons yet never been picked for Scotland at a time when you’d seriously consider asking Colin Hendry and Richard Gough to come out of retirement to help us out. Wilson looks set to follow a similar path to Andy Webster, another player who should have been much better. Right now, he’s not worthy of a Scotland place.
O’Halloran’s form whilst at Rangers wouldn’t have justified a call-up. However, his time with St Johnstone, past and present, will at least raise the possibility.
He’s strong, quick and very useful on the break. The way Scotland set up in a number of games would suit his style of play. However, his overall game is lacking, and even players like Anya or Forrest are a good bit ahead of him.
You’ll hear some people say “if they were playing that well at Rangers or Celtic, they’d be picked”. In O’Halloran’s case, we saw first hand that he couldn’t play that well for us. He blames management for that, and that alone sums up why he won’t go much further in the game. Definitely not someone we could point to as being a realistic pick and some notion of bias against us.
I’ve left Jack to last, as he’s probably the newest of the names as such. His start at Rangers has been impressive, and his form at Aberdeen was similar over the years. He’s 25 at the moment, and was a regular at youth level for Scotland. Surely, he should be included in the squads?
It might just be that his time is coming very soon. Scott Brown had retired from international duty only to be asked to come back for this campaign. Darren Fletcher is getting to a stage where he’ll be considering the same. They don’t have a lot of time left at that level, and that will open up a place in defensive midfield. Looking at the options Scotland have in there, Jack should be at the front of the queue.
Right now, he’s not quite at their level. He hasn’t played in as many big games or got a wealth of experience in European matches. All of that is still to come. If we’re looking at Jack still not having a cap after the next qualifying campaign, then serious questions can be asked.
So overall, I’m of the opinion that the non-inclusion of our players has been largely justified these last 4 or 5 years. I think that’s about to change. I wouldn’t say any fan has to support the national team or not, it’s all a personal choice. I would say, though, that the reasons for not doing so can’t include some sort of notion of bias against us. We all know our team hasn’t been very strong for a good while now, so a lack of internationalists should be expected.