Hearts’ Christophe Berra not finished for Scotland – McLeish

Christophe Berra was left out of Alex McLeish's first squad
Christophe Berra was left out of Alex McLeish's first squad
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Alex McLeish has assured Hearts skipper Christophe Berra that his Scotland career is far from finished after leaving the 33-year-old out of his first squad for the friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary.

Berra, capped 41 times over the past ten years, was disappointed to be overlooked as McLeish took charge of the national side for a second time although fellow defenders Charlie Mulgrew (Blackburn Rovers), a year younger, and Russell Martin, also 32, were called up although the on-loan Rangers player later withdrew through injury.

McLeish phoned Berra, who has had an outstanding season at Tynecastle, to tell him he was intending to go with younger players for these two games, revealing “three or four” who are uncapped could face the South Americans tonight while that number could increase to ten by the time Tuesday’s match is over.

The former Hibs boss said: “I haven’t closed the door on the likes of Christophe Berra or these guys. They are maybe hurting a bit that they aren’t in the squad, but they aren’t out of the plans – nobody is.

“But we have to do it this way. I want to use as many players as I can, but I don’t want to sacrifice a good performance by sending on too many players at one time. We’ll do it in a tactical way, as much as possible.

“We can use six subs. FIFA stopped the huge number of subs when it became a farce. But it’s about the team. It’s not about saying ‘go and get a run-out’. We have a duty to win. There could be three or four playing against Costa Rica but we will try to pick a team to beat Costa Rica.

“They are a decent side, they scored a lot of late goals in their qualifying campaign and they have good players and strength. They are a tall team and we have to stifle that. But they also have that ability like all teams from that part of the world to control and use it well. That’s why they have dumped the USA out, held their own against Mexico and deservedly qualified for the World Cup.

“We could lose. It’s what do you get out of it. There could be ten new caps in the two games. We could blood a few young guys. Did they handle it? You have to analyse it all.

“It’s important to win, but it’s also very important that I see these players can handle this as well. A lot of them have already been at this level, but there will be an introduction of younger players and my message to them is ‘go for it’. The gauntlet is down, go and seize your chance.”

McLeish admitted he’d love to restore the fervour which once surrounded Scotland matches but insisted that would come not just with good performances but by winning consistently.

He said: “It’s about winning. We had a good unbeaten run with Gordon [Strachan] and we just missed out on the play-offs.

“We need to find a way to win consistently, it’s about getting a winning mentality. We are the ones who can change things. I’m not a player, but I can help to change the perception [that people don’t care] as well. It’s about getting people excited and it’s about winning as well.”