ALEX McLEISH insists Hearts’ on-loan striker Steven Naismith is NOT certain to lead the Scotland attack in the UEFA Nations League game against Israel in Hafia a week on Thursday.

The Norwich City frontman, who will be a free agent in the summer, scored one and was involved in another in last month’s opening 2-0 victory over Albania at Hampden.

McLeish intimated the veteran would be his first choice for the Israeli clash which prompted Celtic hitman Leigh Griffiths to fire back at the manager and say it felt like he had been “kicked in the teeth”.

But Big Eck said: “The positive ending to Leigh’s comments were: ‘It’s up to us to show we’re good enough to be worthy of a place’.

“Then he goes and scores three in a row. He’s in good form and is first choice for Celtic at the moment.

“I think somebody said Steven Naismith was guaranteed to play in the next game, but that is certainly not the case. As I said: ‘Prove yourself guys’.

“It’s not inconceivable to see them play together.”

STRIKING IT RICH…Steven Naismith is about to be congratulated by Stephen O’Donnell following the opening goal against Albania at Hampden last month. Pic: Geo.

Naismith has 10 goals this season while Griffiths has claimed five.

Swansea frontman Oli McBurnie returns to the squad – which also includes the friendly against Portugal a week on Sunday – and McLeish added: “He had a good spell before the injury, he’s back in the team at Swansea.

“It’s good to get him back in the squad and it would be good for Oli to grab his first goal.”

The full squad:

GOALKEEPERS: Craig Gordon (Celtic), Allan McGregor (Rangers), Jon McLaughlin (Sunderland);

DEFENDERS: Jack Hendry and Kieran Tierney (both Celtic), Scott McKenna and Graeme Shinnie (both Aberdeen), Charlie Mulgrew (Blackburn), Stephen O’Donnell (Kilmarnock), Andy Robertson (Liverpool), John Souttar (Hearts);

MIDFIELDERS: James Forrest and Callum McGregor (both Celtic), Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Kevin McDonald (Fulham), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Robert Snodgrass (West Ham);

FORWARDS: Leigh Griffiths (Celtic), Oliver McBurnie (Swansea), Steven Naismith (Hearts), Johnny Russell (Sporting Kansas City).


About Author


Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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