Thursday, September 29, 2011

Scotland: Craig Levein avoids Garry O'Connor stramash

Will Craig Levein name Garry O'Connor in his Scotland squad this week?

Apparently not.

Is that the right decision?

Yes.

Why?

O'Connor's form has been exceptional since he came back to the SPL. He's excelled in a struggling side. Hibs aren't a one man team but they've been pretty close to it at times.

His return hasn't been without distractions but it's suggested that his conduct and attitude at the club have been exemplary.

And he's a Scottish striker banging in goals.

Those are the reasons to pick him. Levein will, and here I'll admit that I'm not one of those Hibs fans who thinks the Scotland manager actively pursues an anti-Hibernian agenda, have considered those reasons.

But I suspect he still discounted O'Connor as a realistic candidate for selection.

Any recall would seem to go against the continuity of a close knit squad that Levein wants to foster.

Even if he was to name him in the squad it's unlikely that he would figure in the manager's immediate plans.

No harm in having a striker in a rich vein of form as a back-up though.

And that's where O'Connor's off field distractions are likely to have become too much of a complication for Levein.

Pick him, even with little intention of playing him, and the squad announcement and the build up to the games becomes a Garry O'Connor themed sideshow.

Active legal proceedings, a Channel 4 documentary, previous run-ins with a Scotland manager. It's an unfortunate list.

Levein, always on the defensive with the press, would be forced to either tackle or dodge question after question about O'Connor.

It's a hassle that neither the manager nor the rest of the squad would want to deal with as they prepare for the games ahead. Frankly it's a hassle that O'Connor, who has yet to prove his resurgence can be maintained in the long term, could do without.

There are footballing reason to pick Garry O'Connor and there are footballing reasons not to pick him.

The most sensible decision is based on more than just footballing reasons.

It's the option that best allows the manager and his squad to concentrate on the task in hand, futile as that task might be.

And that leaves Garry O'Connor sitting at home when the squad get together.

> I was writing this post as an exercise in reading Craig Levein's mind when The Scotsman appeared to confirm that O'Connor will not be recalled