With the World Cup 2014 qualifiers a year away some players who have graced the turf at Hampden Park, should now be moved to pastures new, the international wilderness. After failing to secure a play-off place for EURO 2012, the Scotland squad needs to be injecting with some new blood and youth.
In the past few games Barry Bannan has shown that he is certainly one player that Scotland should be building a team around. His pace, skill and attacking flair was one of the bright points within the campaign. If properly used and with players alongside him who are capable of countering quickly, the Scotland attack could be a potent weapon. The likes of Steven Naismith and James Forrest are ideal candidates to provide that added attacking threat alongside Bannan, with the likes of Ross McCormack, Jamie Murphy, Jamie Mackie, Graham Dorrans and Robert Snodgrass more than capable of coming into the team if called upon.
Scotland arguably have the best midfield they have had in over a decade and the strength in-depth is exciting to say the least, especially with many of them being young and yet to hit their peak playing years.
With that attacking flair in midfield, Scotland needs a striker up front who can bully and who can harass opposition defences. Four players certainly come to mind – Steven Fletcher, Craig Mackail-Smith, David Goodwillie and Garry O’Connor.
Why no Kenny Miller? Despite Miller always giving his all in every game, he is past his best and the recent inclusion of him in the squad only for him to be injured in both games should be his final swan song as a Scotland international sadly. Scotland need goals and while Miller has produced his fair share of goals for Scotland over the years, at club level he is struggling. It is time that Miller stepped down and let the new generation of Scotland strikers come through. Certainly he should not be anywhere near the squad when we kick off our World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign.
As I mentioned earlier Scotland’s midfield is the best it has been in years, with the majority of them plying their trade down in the English Premier League or the Championship. With three players in midfield whose sole roles are to counter fast and attack, Scotland need some protection and this is where Charlie Adam and Darren Fletcher come in. Both players are at the top of their game, playing for Liverpool and Manchester United respectively, they can certainly provide the steel in midfield. With the likes of James McArthur, Don Cowie and Scott Brown, capable replacements.
Scotland’s main issues lie in defence, with the central defensive pairing the weakest link within the whole squad. The likes of Stephen McManus and Gary Caldwell are at the wrong end of their careers, and they have provided some bomb scare moments over the past few years. That is why we should blood our younger defenders such as Grant Hanley, Danny Wilson and Charlie Mulgrew alongside a certain regular in the guise of Christophe Berra. The only issue is that our defenders must have regular first team football, unfortunately Hanley and Wilson do not fit into that bill, while there are still question marks over Charlie Mulgrew’s ability. But if Kirk Broadfoot and Garry Kenneth can get call-ups, why not Mulgrew? He has certainly been the best defender within the Celtic team in recent months – although that is not hard.
In the full-back positions, Scotland can call on the likes of Stephen Crainey, Alan Hutton, Phil Bardsley, Lee Wallace and Steven Whittaker. We could also call on the likes of Paul Dixon and Mark Wilson.
Our Goalkeeping department is strong, with current number one Allan McGregor in fine form despite one or two wee hiccups. Then we have Craig Gordon, the ousted number one due to injury and a lack of game time at Sunderland. If he gets back to full fitness and regular first team football then he could challenge McGregor for the number one jersey once more. Matt Gilks, Cammy Bell, David Marshall, Iain Turner and even Neil Alexander provide ample reserves for the goalkeeping department.
The future of the Scottish National side is certainly more exciting than that of the domestic game in Scotland at this moment in time. We have some top youngsters waiting in the wings, who could break through in the next year or two including the likes of Gregg Wylde, Scott Allan, Peter Pawlett, Jordan Rhodes, Leigh Griffiths, Alex MacDonald, David Wotherspoon and Johnny Russell.
It is a risk to oust some experienced players, but it is a calculated risk. What have Scotland got to lose? We have failed to reach a major competition since World Cup 1998 in France, why not take the risk?
If we get desperate then of course we could always recall the likes of Gary Caldwell, Stephen McManus and Kenny Miller initially, but we must now bring through the crop of players that will be the future of the Scotland national side for years to come.