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Victory Means Nothing; Defeat Means Everything

It’s a no-win situation for Scotland manager Craig Levein tomorrow night as his depleted side takes on Brian Kerr’s Faroe Islands at Pittdorie.

The timing of the friendly has come under criticism from many domestic managers with most teams facing a grueling domestic schedule at this time of year.

Levein has been forced into a number of changes for tomorrow’s game and the Scotland boss was faced with even more problems when there were 9 extra call-offs after this weekend’s fixtures. Rangers boss Walter Smith requested that Levein left out a few of his big stars as the Gers face a hectic schedule in the SPL and Champions League with a threadbare squad. Scotland will be without Allan McGregor, David Weir, Lee McCulloch and Kenny Miller who were left out initially by Levein, but they are joined by Steven Whittaker and Steven Naismith who both picked up injuries in the 2-0 win against Aberdeen on Saturday.

Also withdrawing from the squad this weekend were Christophe Berra, Graeme Dorrans, Matt Gilks, James Morrison, Alan Hutton and Chris Burke who all picked up knocks over the last few days.

Revised Scotland Squad

Goalkeepers: Bell (Kilmarnock), Gordon (Sunderland)
Defenders: Bardsley (Sunderland), S Caldwell (Wigan), Wilson (Liverpool), Crainey (Blackpool), Kenneth (Dundee Utd), Caddis (Swindon), Saunders (Motherwell)
Midfielders: Adam (Blackpool), Bannan (Aston Villa), Commons (Derby), Fletcher (Manchester United), Maloney (Celtic), Robson (Middlesbrough), Bryson (Kilmarnock), Davidson (St Johnstone), McArthur (Wigan)
Forwards: Goodwillie (Dundee United), Kyle (Hearts), Mackie (Queens Park Rangers)

Even with a makeshift squad in a meaningless friendly, defeat tomorrow is not an option. It’s a strange game because a win tomorrow means nothing to the Scottish fans and I assume alot of people probably will not take an interest in the fixture, but a defeat could be a national embarrassment and bring back painful memories of the 2-2 draw in the Faroes under Berti Vogts. Under Irish manager Brian Kerr, the Faroes have improved significantly in his time there and they pulled off a superb 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland last month. The Faroes were looking comfortable for the majority of the game and produced a refreshing performance which surprised alot of people.

Bannan in action for Villa

As per usual, the national team looks top class in the goalkeeping department even without Matt Gilks, Allan McGregor and Neil Alexander with Craig Gordon looking the likely No.1 and the in-form Cameron Bell of Kilmarnock providing a very promising back-up.

Defensively, we have a shocking record in friendly matches, and away matches in general, over recent times and the group of defenders selected does not fill me with much confidence. Levein has said he wants to look at players to see what they can bring to the squad, but I still cannot see the logic in calling up Garry Kenneth and Steven Caldwell who are both awful defenders. On a positive note, it is nice to see talented teenager Danny Wilson get a call-up to the national side after an impressive spell with Rangers and he will likely be a regular in the Scotland side for years to come.

In midfield, a few regulars in there like Fletcher, Adam, Robson and Maloney – neither whom have stood out in a Scotland jersey. Another positive is the call-up of Aston Villa youngster Barry Bannan who looks an excellent talent and should probably be a regular even at the moment. James McArthur’s career has stalled in recent months after his move to Wigan from Hamilton but there is no doubt he is a talented player who can offer alot to the side. The two surprise call-ups were Craig Bryson and Murray Davidson who have both done exceptionally well for their club sides with Bryson now the captain at Kilmarnock.

It is very clear that we lack options in attack with only three strikers chosen for tomorrow’s clash. Jamie Mackie will likely start so that Levein can get a proper look at the QPR hitman who Levein shifted wide-right in that horrific 4-6-0 formation in Prague. Dundee United’s young striker David Goodwillie gets a deserved call-up after netting 8 SPL goals so far this season and he is joined by Hearts striker Kevin Kyle who makes a return to the national set-up after nearly 10 years away from the scene.

The lack of talent avaliable for Levein is perhaps a sign of the times for Scottish Football, but there’s absolutely no doubt it is great to see Bannan, Wilson, Goodwillie, McArthur and Bell in the squad and all of them are just as good as the dross we get for the competitive fixtures.

The game might not have proven popular with domestic managers and alot of supporters, but Levein insists it will give him more information and he will be eager to make amends for the shocking performances against the Czechs and Leichenstein.

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