Sean Markus Clifford
Eligibility: Casting the Net
Five players Scotland could call upon in their quest to qualify for Euro 2021
COVID-19 has placed many significant calendar events on the back burner; with football being one of the most directly affected. Lockdown methods globally and their stringent nature with regards to physical contact and sizeable get-togethers reduced major football to a distant afterthought for a considerable period to slow the escalation of the deadly virus. Phased alleviating of these procedures has allowed football to resume in a limited capacity; however, club football has taken precedent meaning international fixtures have been subject to delay as nations endeavour to finish league seasons behind closed doors.
This pause of international footballing affairs has put a potential footballing watershed moment on hold for one nation in particular: Scotland. Hampden will play host to arguably the Dark Blues biggest game in almost 20 years when Israel eventually come to Glasgow later in the year; with the winners facing a mouth-watering tie away to the victors of Norway or Serbia for a place at Euro 2020 (now 2021).
With even longer to build up towards those games, many could believe that the upcoming possible double header is a matter of frantic proportion; qualify now or qualify never.
Dual eligibility in the realm of international football is an ever-present reality in what is progressively becoming the norm for those national sides inside and outside the elite. The record scorer in Men's World Cup Finals is Germany's Miroslav Klose, born in Opole, Poland.
Closer to home, you can gaze across the water to Ireland, Northern Ireland and down to Wales and you will see a plethora of English born stars plying their trade for their adopted homelands. Stars such as Scott McTominay, Liam Palmer and Oliver McBurnie further illustrate the prominence of footballers from outside their birth nation committing to a future north of the border.
So, who else could the Tartan Army look to call upon in their quest to qualify for a first major tournament since 1998?
Che Adams (Striker - Southampton FC)
One of Scotland’s most noticeable bugbears in recent times is the lack of a consistently fit centre-forward. Off-field issues have seen talismanic figure Leigh Griffiths take time out of the game up until recently. Whereas Oliver McBurnie, Eamonn Brophy and Oliver Burke are among other peripheral figures who haven’t yet been able to step in to fill the void.
The Southampton centre forward was previously touted for a Scotland call-up under Alex McLeish in 2017; choosing not to commit at that time. However, there is no doubt Che Adams would be a serious contender for the forward berth should he commit his future to the Scots. Despite a lack of proficiency in the present term for Southampton; 22 goals in 46 appearances with Birmingham City in the preceding campaign gives an indication to how valuable an asset he could be to the Hampden side.
Ryan Fredericks (Right-Back - West Ham)
Defensively, Scotland have an evident dearth of class. Absence of a quality right-back has played havoc with Steve Clarke’s backline; has starved Scotland of an essential offensive threat on the overlap, more so it has heavily contributed to the 19 goals conceded in 10 outings in Euro 2020 qualifying.
The West Ham regular would be a substantial improvement on current right-sided options should he declare for Scotland, due to his relative Premier League experience having featured 20 times for the East London side this season. As well as supplying a notable supporting threat down the right flank with considerable pace; there could be potential for a dangerous linkage of the defender and James Forrest which could in turn stretch defences and give Scotland a polished outlet of creating openings going forward.
Harvey Barnes (Left-Midfield - Leicester City)
Perhaps the most unlikely name on this list to accept a call from Steve Clarke; the Leicester star is seemingly on the cusp of a call-up to represent England’s Three Lions. With seven goals and seven assists from 32 outings for the Foxes this campaign (all competitions); Barnes is rapidly maturing into an indispensable menace down the left-hand side.
The former West Brom loanee perhaps demonstrated his finest capabilities in the run-up to the 2019/20 season’s postponement: with five goals and two assists in nine games ending in a man of the match display against Aston Villa where the mercurial winger scored a brace in a comprehensive 4-0 victory for Brendan Rodgers’ side. The former England U21 international would undoubtedly be one of the Scottish national team’s main assets, however there is widespread acknowledgement that Barnes will probably be called upon by Scotland’s rivals the Auld Enemy in the next international squad selection.
Todd Kane (Right-Back - Queens Park Rangers)
Similar to Ryan Fredericks who was eluded to earlier in the piece; Todd Kane could be a valuable acquisition due to an acute shortage of quality in the right full-back berth. The former Chelsea graduate has been ever-present for Queens Park Rangers this season; achieving 29 appearances in all competitions.
Versatility is one of Kane’s preeminent qualities; also featuring at left-back and even in a more advanced role on the right throughout his career. Formerly of Hull City, Kane has helped to keep four clean sheets in 2019/20 as well as chipping in with two assists which has propelled QPR to within six points of the Championship play-off spots. An accomplished performer on the ball and defensively sturdy, he provides an interesting proposition for Scotland who are no doubt requiring defensive re-enforcement. Steve Clarke is rumoured to be casting an eye over his progress, so do not be surprised if he dons the dark blue before long.
Angus Gunn (Goalkeeper - Southampton)
Usually, Scotland’s issues with depth are our disparity of quality defenders within our ranks. Despite this, there is a new issue potentially brewing which has not received the attention it deserves, our lack of goalkeepers. From first glance, Scotland seem to be stocked adequately when it comes to the men with the gloves.
However, some of our main options span way into their thirties. After Allan McGregor’s retirement internationally, our other options are as follows: current number one David Marshall is 35 years old, Jon McLaughlin is 32, Craig Gordon is 37 years old whilst our younger goalkeepers haven’t been entrusted with the responsibility of being an international goalkeeper at Hampden.
Additionally, Angus Gunn is currently plying his trade with Southampton in the English Premier League; making 13 appearances in all competitions and totalling two clean sheets in the 2019/20 campaign to date. At 24 years of age, highly rated Gunn could feasibly become Scotland’s first choice goalkeeper for the next decade if he was to contemplate playing for the Tartan Army. Scotland runs in the Gunn family, with it being well-documented that his father Bryan appearing for the Blues six times between 1990 and 1994.
Despite this it seems that son Angus is holding out for a call from the country of his birth, with Scotland manager Steve Clarke reportedly failing to convince the stopper to switch allegiances. The hope of the Saints star pulling on a Scotland jersey is a wishful one, for now at least….
Honourable mentions go to Huddersfield striker Karlan Grant, Livingston frontman Lyndon Dykes, Aston Villa’s Matt Targett, former Liverpool defender Steven Caulker and Montreal Impact defender Luis Binks amongst others. All of which would provide the Scots with exciting options going forward.
Are there any other players you'd suggest Steve Clarke should be considering? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below!