Alex McLeish has now named the first Scotland squad of his second tenure in charge of the country.
The 27-man selection will be report for duty at the end of this month ahead of friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary.
And the freshness to the squad should excite Scotland fans who are desperate to see change from what they’ve been supporting over the last few failed campaigns.
With the first game against Costa Rica at Hampden just 10 days away, we’ve been thinking about what McLeish’s first Scotland XI could look like.
This is what we came up with:
Most teams play it – so you’d imagine the majority of players will be well accustomed to the shape. It allows McLeish to get three quality midfielders in the team while retaining plenty of men in defence as well as attack. We can’t see him deviating from a system that could allow them to play 4-5-1 when without the ball too.
Well, because he’s bang in form. Millwall are on a great run, unbeaten in their last seven games in the Championship and a big part of that is down to Archer. He’s conceded just four goals in that run and goes into the squad as the standout goalkeeper deserving of a chance. Many Scots won’t have seen him in action so a friendly against Costa Rica would be the ideal game to test him out.
Why that back four?
Scotland have ridiculous depth at left back and you have to say Barry Douglas is unfortunate to miss out on the XI considering how good he’s been for Wolves this season. But what can you do when Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney are ahead of him in the pecking order? We fancy Tierney to be tested as a centre back more over the next few friendlies for Scotland as his versatility should lend itself to playing the position instead of Robertson. Scotland are still in need of a few quality options at centre back, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the Celtic youngster emerges as one of those. That would leave Robertson to continue shining at left back like he has done for Liverpool over the last few months. On the other side, Scott McKenna deserves a game for his brilliant season so far for Aberdeen. At right back, there’s a lack of options too, particularly when you consider Callum Paterson has been playing in midfield for Cardiff. But he’s the best of the lot on offer in that position so he should line up there in a pretty decent back four for McLeish’s first game.
Why McTominay and McGeouch?
Are there two centre midfielders in better form than that pair? Starting with Scott McTominay, his decision to become a Scotland international when England were obviously hovering means he should be involved straight from the off. But his form at Manchester United alone means he has to get games immediately to get used to the Scotland set-up. That could potentially be a big coup for the SFA. Alongside him, Dylan McGeouch has emerged as arguably Hibs’ top midfield talent amid some real quality in that position at Easter Road and he deserves an opportunity to show he can cope at international level. It was a difficult decision putting him in ahead of John McGinn, who has been touted as the long-term replacement for Scott Brown at club and country. But McGeouch deserves the spot on form and could lay down a marker for the rest of McLeish’s campaign if he performs well.
It could easily be Jamie Murphy, but Ryan Fraser’s form for Bournemouth in the Premier League over the last year should see him just edge getting the position for us. He’s never really had a crack for Scotland, but this is a fresh start and a fit and firing Fraser could be a very big player going forward. Add the pace of Forrest on the other wing and you have an electric frontline for the Tartan Army.
We’re intrigued by what McBurnie could potentially bring to the national team. Based on his breakthrough at Swansea, it was clear he had talent. But his loan spell at Barnsley was designed to help him show he can score regularly at first team level – and he’s had no problem with that so far, scoring five goals in seven games since signing there. He’s the form striker in the squad, just edging Jason Cummings due to the Rangers man playing second fiddle to Alfredo Morelos since moving to Ibrox.