Scotland assistant Peter Grant sends warning to stay-away stars

Scotland assistant coach Peter Grant
Scotland assistant coach Peter Grant
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Peter Grant has warned that players won’t be alowed to pick and choose when they want to turn out for Scotland.

International boss Alex McLeish has been hit by a string of call-offs ahead of the crunch UEFA Nations League clashes with Albania and Israel.

Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack, called up on Sunday after another raft of withdrawals including that of Fulham playmaker Kevin McDonald, has now left the camp with an unspecified injury.

McLeish was already shorn of several key players before Blackburn defender Charlie Mulgrew, Kilmarnock’s Stephen O’Donnell and Celtic keeper Craig Gordon withdrew injured over the weekend. Jack, along with Hamburg defender David Bates, Manchester United playmaker Scott McTominay and Hoops goalkeeper Scott Bain, were drafted in on Sunday.

While insisting a distinction must be made for those who are out injured, assistant coach Grant insisted being picked for the Scotland squad must be seen as the “ultimate” for any player.

“If you don’t want to play, no problem,” he said. “We’re not going to force you, we’re not going to fight and ask you to come. If you don’t want to play for your national team, that’s it.

“You’ll be very, very fortunate if you get selected again. If you don’t want to play through injuries, that’s completely different. But if you don’t want to play, I don’t think you will be back in. You know how proud Alex was to get the caps he did.”

Grant admitted today’s football calendar put pressure on players, caught between club and country, saying: “In the old internationals you would meet up on a Sunday, play on a Wednesday and that was you, Now you are here for two games in quick succession. To get picked for you national team was the ultimate. Now it’s a little bit different.

“Clubs put players under a bit more pressure now. I genuinely believe that because of the quick turnover of games. They want them available for them. They maybe get them back on the Thursday before the Premier League game on the Saturday. Is that enough time?

“The players are in the team, they want to stay in the team. We understand all these things, but for us the most important thing is still Scotland. We can’t tell managers about the pressure they are maybe putting on their players. I’m not saying all managers are like that, but there’s a quick turnaround of managers now so they want their best players available.

“The managers could lose their jobs so they want their best players available. It’s just a vicious circle. It doesn’t make our job any easier but all we can do is deal with the boys who are here.”

Meanwhile, Grant defended McLeish’s decision to draft Celtic’s No.2 Bain into the squad rather than Zander Clark, who has just created a club record of five successive clean sheets for St Johnstone, or Livingston’s Liam Kelly, who has clocked up ten shut-outs this season.

Revealing Bain had impressed during the summer tour to Mexico and Peru and would have been in previous squads but for injury, he said: “If we could pick everyone who was playing well then we’d be delighted.

“But that’s football, you can only pick a certain amount of goalkeepers. You can only pick so many players in total.”