Glasgow (AFP) – Scotland manager Alex McLeish admitted he has not been spoiled for choice due to injuries and international retirements for upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Kazakhstan and San Marino.
McLeish named a 27-man squad on Tuesday without Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who has decided to end his international career.
On-loan Hibernian striker Mark McNulty earned his first call-up with McLeish particularly short of options up front in the absence of Leigh Griffiths, Steven Fletcher and Steven Naismith.
Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser and Cardiff’s Callum Paterson are in the squad, but McLeish also confirmed neither would travel to Kazakhstan for the first game on March 21 because of the artificial surface at the Astana Arena.
“This has been an ongoing agreement with club and country – they are not going to play on the astro-turf,” added McLeish, who will welcome both players back for the trip to San Marino on March 24.
Scotland’s chances of qualifying for a first major tournament in over 20 years got off to a great start by winning their Nations League group in November, to guarantee a playoff place should they fail to finish in the top two of a qualifying group containing Belgium and Russia.
However, McLeish could be without six players that started the November victories over Albania and Israel.
“It’s not ideal, I’d rather the guys were available for us. With every player of quality you lose from those two results we got in November, then obviously the quality diminishes a little bit,” said McLeish.
“But we have every faith in the back-up squad that we have, players that can come in in their place.
“Don’t get me wrong, I can’t just make it magic like that if five or six of the players go missing from those two games, but we feel we have the cover available.”
McGregor played his part in the Nations League success, but at 37 has decided to concentrate on his club career.
“It’s obviously a blow for us, Allan being in great form this season for club and country,” added McLeish.
“Old age does creep in. Goalkeepers do last a little bit longer than outfield players but Allan has been through the wars in the last couple of years.
“He has suffered back injuries, knee injuries and to come back from that and play at the level he has been playing over the last year is a great feat and a tribute to him.”
Squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Jordan Archer (Millwall), Scott Bain (Celtic), Jon McLaughlin (Sunderland)
Defenders: David Bates (Hamburg), Scott McKenna (Aberdeen), Charlie Mulgrew (Blackburn Rovers), Stephen O’Donnell (Kilmarnock), Liam Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday), Andy Robertson (Liverpool), John Souttar (Hearts), Kieran Tierney (Celtic)
Midfielders: Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), Barry Bannan (Sheffield Wednesday), John Fleck (Sheffield United), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Kenny McLean (Norwich City), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Callum Paterson (Cardiff City), Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen)
Forwards: Oliver Burke, James Forrest (both Celtic), Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Oliver McBurnie (Swansea City), Marc McNulty (Hibernian), Lewis Morgan (Sunderland), Johnny Russell (Sporting Kansas City)
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