For & Against: Who will lead Scotland to Brazil?


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For Kenny Miller

Nathan MacKenzie states that Kenny Miller has the experience, the pace and the determination to lead Scotland to Brazil and that Jordan Rhodes is far too inexperienced and young to deal with the demands that are being placed on him.

Scotland faced Macedonia and Serbia at Hampden Park in what was two very important World Cup 2014 qualifiers. Both games were must win if Scotland were to have any chance of getting out of a tough qualifying group also containing Euro 2012 finalists Croatia, Eden Hazard’s Belgium and Gareth Bales’ Wales.

One area of the Scotland team which seems to be causing Craig Levein a lot of problems is up front. Famously he decided to not even play a striker in the Euro qualifying disaster against the Czech Republic. Levein is sure to not make the same mistake, however he is likely to continue to play his favoured 4-5-1 formation, meaning there will be room for only one man to lead the line for Scotland.

With Steven Fletcher in the international wilderness, while David Goodwillie and Craig Mackail-Smith are not scoring goals for their respective clubs, many in the Tartan Army believe it is time for Blackburn Rovers’ Jordan Rhodes to take on the role of Scotland’s lone striker. He certainly made the right impression along with Leed’s striker Ross McCormack in scoring against the Aussies at Easter Road last month.

However Craig Levein would be wise to stick with one of Scotland’s most consistent performers. Kenny Miller may not be on the radar much, since he jetted off to Canada’s west coast to play for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS alongside another Scotland teammate, Barry Robson. But Kenny Miller is exactly the sort of player Scotland needs for the World Cup qualifiers.

Kenny Miller works harder than anyone else in the lone striker role and although he might not be as prolific a goal scorer as Jordan Rhodes, he does have a wealth of international experience and can cause major problems for any defence.

Under Levein, Miller has already scored goals against the Czech Republic, Wales, Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Liechtenstein. He has played these important games at Hampden before and knows what to expect. Rhodes experience in competitive games are limited and may find the atmosphere and demands of representing Scotland at that level too much at this early stage in his career. It may be best to continue the drip feed of caps to Rhodes to build up his confidence and experience for him to make a greater impact later in the qualifying campaign.

Let’s not forget that Rhodes is still only 22 and has played for most of his career in League One, a league not exactly noted for its wealth of international quality players. He is still learning a lot in the Championship and has yet to be tested at the top-level for club or country. One thing, Miller does have is plenty of experience.

He also possesses the pace and intelligence that can get him behind any defence, while his terrier like running down of opponents can cause all manner of problems for shaky defenders. His record of 16 goals in 60 games for Scotland may not be spectacular but he brings much more to the table than just goals.

Miller has unfinished business with Scotland and will be desperate to reach his first major tournament with them, this after all will probably be his last chance.

He has already got his first goal of the season against Kris Boyd’s Portland Timbers. His goal was trademark Miller as he found space in the box taking a touch to control the ball before slotting it into the bottom corner with pace. It’s that kind of intelligence and skill that Scotland will need when they come up against Scotland’s World Cup qualifying opponents.

For Jordan Rhodes

Alan Rennie believes that a goalscorer is a must now, that Kenny Miller has had his time and he has failed to fire Scotland to a major tournament. Miller should make way for youngster Jordan Rhodes

When Craig Levein selected his Scotland squad for the double-headers at home to Serbia and Macedonia, he spoke of his sympathy for Craig Mackail-Smith who had missed out on selection.

“The fact is competition is really strong just now,” said the Scotland boss.

Levein had selected Ross McCormack, Jamie Mackie, Kenny Miller, Steven Naismith and Jordan Rhodes in his squad for the matches against Serbia and Macedonia. Until now, Levein – like many of his predecessors – he has turned towards Kenny Miller in a lone striking role during his tenure, usually in a 4-5-1 or 4-1-4-1 system.

Miller has made the role his own with his excellent work-ethic and generally, he has led the line well. He is the epitome of a ‘team’ player chasing hopeful ‘passes’ into the channels. He’s been a very good team player with an excellent attitude. Arguably, he has been more valuable to the Scotland cause than his 16 goals in 60 caps suggests.

In the nicest possible way though, it is time we had a goal scorer. It is time to bid farewell to the ex-Rangers and Hibernian striker, who will be 34 when the 2014 World Cup begins.

Don’t forget, Miller is playing in the MLS with the Vancouver Whitecaps, a standard that most football fans would question. Surely we must find something new up-front.

Whether or not you agree with Levein’s stance on the non-selection of Steven Fletcher, it is clear that Scotland’s most expensive ever football player will not be involved in the campaign as long as Levein is in charge.

Fletcher’s absence opens the door nicely for Blackburn Rovers hit-man Jordan Rhodes to potentially make the lone-striking position his own. Rhodes, who scored more league goals (40) in the English leagues last season than any other player – albeit in League One, the third tier of the English game – has done well in the national team set-up during the last few years.

Critics may question the standard of League Two in England, but this is a player on the way up in the game. He is still young and raw but boy can he finish. Watching a compilation of Rhodes’ goals makes you realise just how deadly a striker he is. A lot of his finishes are instinctive and stem from what appear to be no better than half-chances.

For the Scotland under-21s, Rhodes has netted very impressively eight times in eight games.

Levein decided to give him a chance from the start in the friendly against Australia at Easter Road. It was Rhodes’ first start for Scotland and he bagged himself a goal as he headed in Danny Fox’s cross from the left hand side.

Rhodes is a natural finisher, something that has been all too rare in the Scotland side of recent years. Remember that fateful Chris Iwelumo miss? I still have nightmares about it.

Similarly, we’ve all seen Miller run himself into the ground and when the big chance comes his way, he is likely to scupper the opportunity.

While Rhodes may not offer the industry of Miller, we’d all be more confident of him finding the back of the net.

Any positive change of approach should be welcomed by the Tartan Army. We haven’t qualified with Miller spear-heading the attack so we should move on and move forward. Rhodes has the predatory touch inside the box to take his chances, surely the primary requirement of an international forward. His physicality and aerial ability compensates the loss of Miller’s industry.

The time is right for this kind of change with a healthy breed of young attacking players breaking through into the team. Players such as Graham Dorrans, James Forrest, Shaun Maloney, James Morrison, Matt Phillips and Robert Snodgrass are all in the current squad and all of an age that they could be in and around the Scotland XI for at least the next couple of qualifying campaigns.

Add Gary MacKay-Steven and Barry Bannan to that list. Both are exciting talents that could establish themselves with Rhodes in the future.

Rhodes is just 22. This gives the players a chance to start getting used to having him leading the line, forging relationships and generating a good understanding on the pitch. Knowing the type of runs your striker is likely to make can only make it easier playing with them.

Selecting Jordan Rhodes as the main centre-forward would be a brave decision from Craig Levein. It’s a move that would excite the Scottish football fans and give us a sense that we are watching something new. Something different.

However, at a time when the pressure appears to be taking its toll on Levein, there is an obvious fear that he could resort to his cautious approach. If he does, unfortunately, we can expect to see Kenny Miller in the line-up next time Scotland is playing.

So what is your stance? Are you for Kenny Miller or for Jordan Rhodes?


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