CRAIG LEVEIN believes that the Tartan Army can roar his side on to success – in the same way that crowds at the Olympics have spurred Team GB onto a huge medals haul in London.
The Scotland manager is keen to see a full house at Easter Road when the Hibs ground plays host to their international friendly against Australia on August 15.
The noise created by fans at the Olympic Stadium, the Velodrome and their other specially-designed venues in the British capital has been credited for pushing the nation’s athletes to victory and Levein believes that the Tartan Army can have a similar role to play for the Scottish football team in the coming months.
Levein named a 24-man squad for the game against the Socceroos and immediately highlighted the importance of a big crowd to get behind their country.
He reckons that there is no better stage for the match than Easter Road and hopes that Edinburgh-based supporters turn out in their numbers to see their country play.
He said: “We went up to Aberdeen for a game against the Faroe Islands and, for the friendly matches in particular, I think that it is really good.
“It is important that we get the atmosphere for these games right. At Hampden the capacity is over 50,000 and for friendly games you know that we are not quite going to get that kind of crowd, so it’s good to come to a ground like Easter Road. If we can get 20,000 inside the ground then that is brilliant and there should be a good atmosphere. The stadium has changed a bit since the last time Scotland played here and it looks fantastic.
“The pitch looks great as well, so I am excited about playing our game here.
“Also, though, I think that it gives people the opportunity not to have to travel the same distance as they would if the match was at Hampden.
“It’s like a bit of a reward to the people of Edinburgh and the surrounding areas for their support.” He added: “We have to be a great team to qualify. I am driving towards making us a great team and a big part of that is the supporters.
“If you look back at the Spain game at Hampden last year, it was an unbelievable atmosphere and it really lifted the players. At the Olympics just now, the crowds are really carrying the athletes through in some events and I really want the same thing to happen with our qualifying campaign.
The most obvious omission from Levein’s pool of players was Lee Wallace and the Scotland boss admitted that, while he is not closing the door altogether, it is going to be increasingly difficult for Rangers players to fight their way back into contention for a place in the national side.
Levein conceded: “It was a bit of a difficult decision but this is what the whole performance system that we are putting in place is all about. One of the key components is ‘best v best’, making sure that you are testing yourself at a high level so that when you step into international football it is not a big jump.
“I am not closing the door to anybody who is playing for Rangers but it is difficult to think that they will be able to play at that level week-in, week-out and then go up a level.
“Other people might think differently but I have got this principal, this idea, and I have said consistently that Scottish players going down and playing in the likes of the Premiership is good for the international team. This situation is almost the opposite of that.”
Injuries and suspensions would now appear to be the most likely route for anyone playing for the Ibrox side in the Third Division to earn a recall.
And Levein continued: “Ian Black was on the verge of being involved but decisions have been made. It is not my job to tell players or give advice to players on where they play, I can understand the attraction of going to play for Rangers but I have got to look at what I think is the best for the national team. It could get to the stage in September where I have called these guys in because I have got a couple of injuries. I am not closing the door in any way, shape or form.
Meanwhile, Levein handed Southampton’s Danny Fox is in line for his first Scotland cap in almost three years after impressing at domestic level.
The Southampton full back won his only cap to date in a 3-0 defeat to Wales during a brief spell with Celtic but now has the chance to double his appearance data.
“He is now playing in the Premiership,” Levein said. “His record of games for Southhampton is fantastic, he hardly misses a match. He plays almost every single week, he is a good age and he has already had a taste of international football.
“I want to give him an opportunity. I want to make sure that I have got plenty of cover in all of the positions and Danny is definitely one that I want to have another look at.”