Alex McLeish has revealed Dylan McGeouch’s derby day performance as Hibs defeated Hearts 2-0 last Friday clinched the midfielder’s call-up to the Scotland squad.
McLeish, in his second spell in charge of the national side, had delayed naming the players who will face Costa Rica at Hampden a week on Friday and Hungary in Budapest four days later to allow him to spend the weekend looking at possible candidates before making his final decisions.
As such, the former Hibs boss was back at Easter Road on Friday night to see both McGeouch and team-mate John McGinn in action along with Hearts goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin, all three selected for a squad which includes six new faces. And McLeish admitted he was impressed by what he’d seen of 24-year-old McGeouch, who is enjoying the best season of his career. McLeish said: “First impressions are often the lasting ones, if you use the old cliché. I thought he had a really good game. You like what you see.
“In the past, in club football, when scouts have recommended a player to me I’ve always had reservations because I like to see them with my own eyes. Sure enough, sometimes I’ve signed a player and you’ve sanctioned the chief scout to do it, on the training ground you think ‘Oh, I don’t know if I would have chosen him’.
“I do like to witness a player with my own eyes and I’ve seen a lot of football over the last couple of weeks, as I have in the last couple of years watching games in England. Working abroad as well, I’ve watched a lot of football.”
In all, McLeish’s squad contains nine uncapped players: McGeouch, McLaughlin, Manchester United’s Scott McTominay, Wolves left-back Barry Douglas, Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna, striker Oli McBurnie, who has scored five goals in seven matches since joining Barnsley on loan from Swansea, Millwall goalkeeper Jordan Archer, Fulham midfielder Kevin McDonald and Rangers winger Jamie Murphy.
McLeish has challenged them all to force their way into his plans as he bids to take Scotland to the European Championship finals in 2020, with preparations for the qualifying campaign and UEFA Nations League matches continuing with two more friendlies against Peru and Mexico at the end of the season.
“It is a fresh start,” said McLeish, who was unable to select a number of experienced players through injury, including Christophe Berra, Craig Gordon, James Morrison, Barry Bannan and Steven Fletcher, while others have failed to make the pool, including Robert Snodgrass and Darren Fletcher.
“There’s a couple of the experienced players not in the squad but I know what they can do. I want to have a look at some other players.
“It’s a couple of friendly games – it doesn’t mean we will play friendly, but I certainly want to look at players who have been doing well for their clubs.
“We want them to play the way they have been playing for their clubs and try and challenge themselves to become even better.
“The next step is the guys prove it. They have to now show they can live with other international teams, improve their game and see if they can raise the bar to the highest level they can possibly go.”