Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A new era?


James McFadden has failed to prove his fitness so Dorrans will replace him. Lee Wallace is fit to play.


So which of George Burley's four renegades would make the cut in Craig Levein's first Scotland team.

None. Not Barry Ferguson, devoted to life at Birmingham. Not Allan McGregor, waylaid by that strange assault. Not Lee McCulloch, hurt in Sunday's Old Firm clash. And not Kris Boyd, confined to the bench.

Many people - and the author concedes he is amongst them - might be dismayed by the inclusion of Kenny Miller up front, a certainty after Steven Fletcher's injury. The fear has to be that Levein's Scotland will remain blunt in attack. But given the way the team is likely to play Boyd lacks the all round game to provide the answers to any questions that Miller's abilities raise. The manager has acknowledged that in his team selection. We'll just need to see how Kris reacts.

Shocks in the team? Not many.

Andy Webster's international hiatus ends after four years, a nod to Levein's apparent desire to have men he knows and trusts in his starting eleven.

With James McFadden set to play, depending on a fitness test tomorrow, the formation could be called a 4-4-2. In reality it's set up to go 4-5-1 more often than not. Graham Dorrans is on standby to fill McFadden's fluid attack/midfield role if required.

Anyone hoping for a tactical revolution will be disappointed but Levein was never likely to offer that.

What he needs to show is a team organised enough to do what is needed and inspired enough to perform better than the sum of it's various parts.

Can he get Darran Fletcher to replicate his perfomances at Manchester United? Can he get Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson to rediscover the carefree performances that earned them multi-million pound moves from Easter Road? Can he get his four defenders to play like they trust each other to get the job done?

These are the abilities an international manager requires but they're difficult to measure, the proof is only really delivered when the final whistle goes.

We could lose tomorrow but give a performance that suggests Levein is ready to make progress. We could win and be left with the feeling that little has changed.

What do I want to see at Hampden? Organisation, passion, desire, a work ethic. I'm not asking for the world but I am expecting better than a lot of what's gone before.

Prediction. OK, if I'm pushed, I'll take a scoring draw. But basically, please God, just let it be better.

D Fletcher

Levein, incidentally, gave what I think he'll want to be the final word on his selection policy yesterday:
I believe there will be people who resent the fact that I have picked some players who didn't want to play under George. But that's my decision.

The players then have a decision to make themselves. If they decide they want to play for Scotland, which they all have done, then I feel they have thought through that decision and are prepared for whatever comes their way.

I would ask everybody who is watching the game to have one thing in mind - these guys are playing for their country.

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