Scotland coach offers reassurances to McGeouch and Berra
Assistant Scotland coach Peter Grant has reassured Hibs midfielder Dylan McGeouch that he will play international football even although injury denied him a first senior cap this week.
Grant also stressed that Hearts defenders Christophe Berra and John Souttar should not consider the Scotland door closed simply because they did not make the current squad.
A groin injury has ruled McGeouch out of friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary over the next eight days. However, Grant promised the 25-year-old he will get his chance to pull on the dark blue shirt in the future.
“We have got to be careful. Dylan didn’t train yesterday morning and he is still feeling it a little bit,” said Grant, who is assisting new national coach Alex McLeish alongside James McFadden. “It is important for him that he doesn’t do something that means he can’t take part when he goes back to his club. We have to look after the boys.
“I have watched him and I thought he was magnificent against Hearts. He had a great understanding of the game, his positional play was great. Football is very individual.
“They are all your team-mates on match day. The rest of the time you want to be in the team before them and you want to get a contract before them. That is the way football is. It is dog-eat-dog.
“If I get in a central midfield position I want to stay there. It is an opportunity for somebody to get in there. Dylan deserved the opportunity to come into the group. It is unfortunate he misses out but he will definitely get his chance. He will definitely get another chance the way he’s performing.”
Berra, the Hearts captain, was omitted from McLeish’s first squad despite being a regular starter towards the end of predecessor Gordon Strachan’s reign. Souttar is enjoying his most consistent campaign at senior level but remains in the Scotland Under-21 squad as he waits patiently for promotion.
McLeish called up uncapped Celtic defender Jack Hendry as a replacement when Rangers’ on-loan centre-back Russell Martin withdrew from the Scotland squad on Sunday. Grant insisted both Tynecastle defenders are on the international radar and should not be too despondent.
“Young guys have been doing well, like Scott McKenna and Jack Hendry, who has been doing exceptionally well at Celtic,” said Grant. “He was playing exceptionally well at Dundee and was probably tested a lot more at Dundee. He handled that really well.
“Young John Souttar has been doing really well at Hearts. Christophe has been in before. Alex knows what he can do. Friendlies give you an opportunity. You get to qualifiers and people say: ‘Why did you not play him in the friendlies?’ We know what some of the senior guys can do.
“Alex thinks it is important that these young guys get a feel, first and foremost of the group, but also what’s expected of them. They may not handle it. Who knows? They may not handle the occasion. Then, all of a sudden, he knows Christophe has been there before. He has been able to handle playing for Scotland so that’s not a problem for him.
“It’s different if it is a 19-year-old or 20-year-old kid coming in. That’s a completely different thing. The way you play, the style you are playing against and the quality you are playing against goes up a level. That’s the difference. How can they handle everything else that goes along with the preparation? Can they maintain that focus daily?
“Christophe has proven he can do that so the door is definitely not shut. I think Alex has said that from day one. He thinks it is very important that these guys get the opportunity, not to fail because that would be remiss, but to say: ‘Can they play in that arena?’
“Playing for Scotland is the epitome of you doing well for your football club. And once you get selected for Scotland you want to be in the team. That’s the way it has to be. Then, when you get in the team, you want to qualify for championships.
“When you have had call-offs, you are not going to go with somebody who is not playing well. Christophe has been playing well with his club, but Alex has decided that at this moment in time there are other guys who deserve an opportunity.”
Manchester City goalkeeper Angus Gunn is another potential contender for the Scotland squad despite being called up by England last November. His father, Bryan, earned six Scotland caps between 1990 and 1994.
Gunn, 22, is currently on loan at Norwich City and coaching staff at Hampden hope he could, in time, be persuaded to switch international allegiance to his paternal homeland.
“I’ve known Angus a long time,” said Grant. “I knew him as a kid. When I was at Norwich, Angus was a baby there, playing in the youth teams before he went to Manchester City. He’s a top-quality goalkeeper.
“England seem to have a lot of top-quality goalkeepers, they keep saying. It will be interesting. With Angus, you are always wondering: ‘Can I get away with playing for England anyway?’ You’ll never shut that door till it’s impossible for him because he’s a top-quality goalkeeper.
“He’s doing exceptionally well for Norwich. I’m fortunate that I get to see him quite a bit. If he decided to come to Scotland, you would obviously embrace him with open arms. There is no doubt about that. I’m not sure about his English accent though.”