The call-up of Rangers midfielder Lewis MacLeod received a mixed reception from Scottish football fans when Gordon Strachan announced his Scotland squad to face the Republic of Ireland and England this month.
There is no denying that MacLeod is a talent, but does playing well in the lower leagues of Scottish football warrant a call-up to the Scottish national side? Even if it is only a ‘team-building’ session.
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has insisted that his players are good enough and can’t understand why they were snubbed by Strachan.
Speaking to the Peter and Roughie’s Football Show, McInnes said: “Gordon seems to be integrating a lot of youngsters who will probably be part of the team. He gets to look at them in training and brings them in for that experience so I like that idea of what he is doing there.
“I’ve got players that could be in that mould certainly like Pawlett. But the biggest one for me at the minute is Ryan Jack. For me outwith Scott Brown he is the best Scottish midfielder in the SPL at the minute.
“I think he’s only going to get better and better. I do believe we’ve got players at Pittodrie who can force their way into future squads.
“I totally respect Gordon’s decision to omit my players at the minute and I hope it encourages my players to be hungry and show determination to force their way in. I believe I’ve got players who wouldn’t let anybody down in a Scotland jersey.
Jack has played 15 times this season for Aberdeen, including for Europa League games, scoring one goal against a higher quality of opposition than MacLeod. The Rangers midfielder has played 16 times this season scoring even times, but the height of is opponents were in the League Cup against Inverness Caledonian Thistle and St.Johnstone – two games that Rangers were turgid in, but two games that saw MacLeod score late on.
MacLeod has impressed in the Scotland Under-21 setup, but the likes of Hull City’s Andrew Robertson, Celtic’s Callum McGregor, Sheffield Wednesday’s Stevie May and Sporting Lisbon’s Ryan Gauld have all impressed against a higher quality of opposition and deserved their call-ups.
Was MacLeod’s call-up all about who he plays for rather than how good other players are?
Jordan Rhodes has played well for Blackburn Rovers, but has been ruled out of any call-up under Strachan at this moment in time simply down to the fact that he doesn’t fit into his formation. Rhodes is good enough to be a Scotland striker though surely?
How about Derby County’s Johnny Russell? He has impressed since his move from Dundee United and has linked up well with strike partner Chris Martin – who has been given a call-up to the Scotland squad.
Then we have another Aberdeen player, Peter Pawlett, one of the Dons top players in recent seasons, was called up to the Scotland set up for the friendly against Nigeria in May yet has not been called up since. Why not?
Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser is another that has been snubbed despite playing 13 times for the English championship side, who are currently top of the table.
Stuart Armstrong, despite coming back from injury, certainly deserves a call-up for his performances since making his debut for Dundee United in November 2010.
What of Hamilton Accies’ Ali Crawford? 16 games and five goals for high-flying Accies. Yet despite impressing significantly he has been snubbed as well.
And if you are wanting a serious candidate for one of Scotland’s brightest talents – why not Real Madrid’s Jack Harper? While relatively younger than those listed above, to play for Real Madrid – even at youth level – makes you no slouch. So why not give this kid a morale boosting team building session with the seniors?
As the Evening Express’ Anthony Joseph said in his recent blog: “Hearing the news that Rangers midfielder Lewis Macleod has been called up today must be a right kick in the teeth for any on-form Scottish Premiership player, who is eligible for the national team.”
And I have to agree with him.
Would MacLeod have been handed a call-up if he wasn’t playing for Rangers? I think not.