Scotland Under-21 manager Billy Stark insists his selection process is sound despite criticism from Falkirk boss Steven Pressley that none of his players are in the squad.
Pressley felt his young regular first-team players had been unfairly overlooked while others had got in the squad without recent competitive action.
Stark named a largely familiar squad for tomorrow’s UEFA Under-21 qualifier against the Netherlands at St Mirren Park, although Bolton striker Michael O’Halloran and Dundee United midfielder Gary Mackay-Steven were drafted in.
Pressley said: “It’s amazing to look at the Under-21 squad and see no Falkirk players in there. Do they just take guys from the SPL reserve teams? I won’t comment on individuals, but we have guys who have played more than 30 first-team games this season, and I see players in that squad who haven’t played for six months. There is something wrong with the system.”
When asked about Pressley’s comments, Stark said: “Craig [Levein] said that with the full squad, if there are good players that can’t get in the squad, it’s a good indication of where we are. But Falkirk have got players who are well on our radar, they have just not been picked for this one.
“I can’t spend time going round apologising to everybody. You pick whatever you think is the best squad for the time and you go on from there.”
Stark, whose team beat the Netherlands away, added: “You can’t have a new squad of players every time you play, because you are trying to qualify for a competition. It’s the same with any squad, you do have a core. I mean 20-24 players but even within that there are one or two who have been with us and are not with us this time and one or two new ones have come in.
“You always have to make sure people know the door is open if they are performing really well and consistently. Gary Mackay-Steven and Michael O’Halloran have shown that. Leigh Griffiths and Alex MacDonald have dropped out just now, but Alex has just gone to Plymouth and is starting to score goals.
“You can only pick 18 to strip and 11 to start. There are difficult decisions there and that’s what coaches have to make.
“But these players are part of our plans, there are one or two of the younger Falkirk ones. Kieran Duffie is probably nearest to the under-21 age, and he is available for the next campaign.”