The half dozen players who were this week left out of the Scotland squad for
the forthcoming friendly with Poland in Warsaw should regard their omission
as notice that a queue is forming to represent the country when the euro
2016 qualifiers get under way in September.
Gordon Strachan found himself in the rare circumstance for a Scotland manager
of being able to omit six players whose club form was not a problem.
Instead, the likes of Jordan Rhodes and Leigh Griffiths found themselves
beyond the fringes of a 24-man squad. To make matters more competitive, when
he brings his players together again at the end of the season Strachan has
no intention of assembling anything like the 33-strong Dutch squad announced
last week by Louis van Gaal for their friendly against France in Paris on
Nor will he take Scotland on a long-distance mission for their final rehearsal
before the qualifiers get under way. “We have options,” said Strachan. “We
can travel around the world and play in strange foreign countries against
top sides in strange conditions but is that really going to help our
European build-up? No.
“So, we’ll stay closer to home and make it short and sharp. It will be for
three or four days and we’ll tell the players that we’ll work really hard
over that period. I think that’s better than going away for 10 days and
getting planes here and there and be flying for 18 hours and then be tired
when you arrive.
“We will work as a group and that’s the way it has to be. We’ll explain to
them we have to work really hard, and if it’s too hard for you then tell us.
“There is no August date on the calendar. If you only have one competitive
game in September then you can also play a friendly.
“The most important thing will be the hours spent on the training field. I
don’t want to be saying we’ll be training hard but we’ll need to be thinking
hard. It won’t be too physical – it will be more about our shape as a team
and understanding where you need to be on the pitch.
“Every player needs to know where to be when we are attacking and defending.
That’s the way we’ll use up our hours on the training field and through that
I hope we have skilful players that can win games for us.
“The players have started to understand what we’re wanting them to do. It
would be perfect if I could have an expanded squad for the end of season
“The problem is that if you bring them all in and five or six are sitting
doing nothing when the game is on then that can be difficult as every player
wants to be stripped, wants to be capped, so I think the players would
prefer a 24 man squad. It’s better to be able to give a player 10 or 15
minutes on the pitch rather than nothing.”
Scotland have their best chance to reach their first major tournament since
the 1998 World Cup at euro 2016 thanks to the expanded 24-team format.
The top two teams in each of the nine qualifying groups progressing along with
the best third-placed team while the remaining third-placed sides will play
off for four more berths.
Strachan said of the draw: “I’m excited about it. I don’t like to plan
anything. I plan training sessions, that’s about the only thing I plan.
“I’m really not fussed. I enjoy meeting up with the players and playing
anybody who is put in front of us.”