International Men of Mystery

A new dawn, a new period of positivity and a new focus.

That’s what Alex McLeish’s appointment as Scotland manager should have brought to the party  and, with a friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary coming up, some of that new hope has been realised.

His newly assembled staff of Peter Grant, James McFadden and Stevie Woods brings a freshness to the dressing room – new voices, new ideas, new fortes etc etc etc.

Six new faces in his first squad also adds to that feeling of evolution from the disappointment and failure of Gordon Strachan’s reign.

But, given the timing of these low profile, low expectation friendlies he could have been even more adventurous with his first squad selection and included boys like John Souttar and Lewis Morgan.

After all, the result of two bounce games in the next fortnight will not be the defining moment of Big Eck’s second coming – that will arrive in the shape of whether or not he can help us qualify for Euro 2020.

He won’t get too many more free throws of the dice to trial players, formations and tactics between now and the real stuff starting in September. End of season games against Peru and Mexico will give him some more time but he should be aware of the players he will be asking to lead the charge by then.

With that in mind is he really going to learn anything about guys like Charlie Mulgrew, Grant Hanley, Russel Martin, Matt Ritchie and Matt Philips that we don’t already know?

Are boys like Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson going to benefit from being part of a squad when they are highly unlikely to start given their game time already this season?

Sure, Alex needs to pick a squad to cover call-offs so the inclusion of additional players is required. I’d have preferred those players to have come from the Under-21s.

If we are truly going to develop a group of players to compete on a regular basis over the next decade then we need to look at getting as many 20 to 24 year-olds into the squad now and drop the older players who have had their chance to deliver and failed.

That might sound harsh but if we are really going to progress we need to act now.

Even if we don’t qualify for 2020 we must learn from the campaign and be in better shape for the Qatar 2022 qualifiers. That is common sense.

Step by step we need to get closer to qualifying for major competitions and once we finally do manage that for the first time since 1998 we want to have created a formula that allows us to do it on a regular basis.

Friendlies like the ones coming up should be in the diary to blood the next crop of emerging talent to the national team and hopefully Alex McLeish will start boys like Scott McKenna, Ryan Christie, Dylan McGeouch, Scott McTominay and Oli McBurnie.

To simply have them along for the ride without significant minutes on the pitch would be a real waste of an opportunity.

The manager should have a real understanding of what those players can offer him and they shouldn’t be an unknown quantity ahead of the Euro 2020 campaign starting.

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