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McLeish keen to show resilience and lead Scotland to Nations League play-offs

McLeish keen to show resilience and lead Scotland to Nations League play-offs
© Reuters
Scotland must beat Albania and Israel to guarantee top spot in their Nations League group.

Alex McLeish has vowed to bounce back from Scotland’s struggles and lead his side to the Nations League play-offs.

Defeat to Group C1 rivals Israel and friendly opponents Portugal has heaped fresh scrutiny on the national team boss after a less-than-convincing return to the Hampden hotseat.

Wins against both Albania in Shkoder and the Israelis at home later this month are now required if the Scots are to guarantee themselves top spot in their section and keep alive hopes of a wildcard route to Euro 2020.

But McLeish insists he can handle the pressure and backed his players to lead a tartan revival.

Speaking as he named his squad for the upcoming double-header, he said: “I learn lessons every time we don’t get the right result and even when we do.

Scotland manager Alex McLeish wants his side to bounce back
Scotland manager Alex McLeish wants his side to bounce back (Adam Davy/PA)

“I like to show my resilience. I’ve been in the game 42 years at the high end, dealing with high pressure.

“The thing I feel I’m pretty good at is bouncing back from a set-back.

“There is always pressure. You saw Jose Mourinho recently admitting that even the great Jose Mourinho had felt a wee bit of pressure.

“But it’s something that you use to empower yourself and make yourself better. And I feel I’ve done that all my career.

“(Topping the group) is the minimum requirement and it’s something I believe we’re capable of and something that’s achievable.”

But having lost six of his eight games in charge since returning to the national team post, there are a growing band of pundits and supporters who believe the axe will have to fall on the manager if he fails in that mission.

McLeish, though, is refusing to contemplate such an outcome.

“That’s not something I’d want to discuss,” he said. “I don’t even think about that. I’m just concentrating on the players getting the right result to take Scotland forward and to inspire the Tartan Army again to come in their hordes.”

Leigh Griffiths misses both Scotland games this month through injury
Leigh Griffiths misses both Scotland games this month through injury (Owen Humphreys/PA)

McLeish’s plans suffered major set-backs after strikers Leigh Griffiths and Steven Naismith as well as John Souttar were all ruled out through injury, while Charlie Mulgrew and Kevin McDonald are also currently nursing knocks.

Steven Fletcher could now win his first cap in over a year after being drafted in to provide some much-needed firepower alongside Celtic’s in-form Ryan Christie, West Brom’s Matt Phillips and Cardiff utility man Callum Paterson.

But there was no place for Fulham’s Tom Cairney nor Manchester United starlet Scott McTominay as both struggle for domestic minutes.

And McLeish admits he is looking for players who can walk straight into action.

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock (left) has used Callum Paterson as a make-shift striker in recent weeks
Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock (left) has used Callum Paterson as a make-shift striker in recent weeks (Simon Galloway/PA)

He said: “I spoke to Steven Fletcher this morning and he was keen to join up. He’s in good form, he’s been out for a long time.

“We felt he needed to get more games this season and he’s done that. When we had the call-offs we had no hesitation to call Steven and here he is.

“He’s got brilliant experience. He’s a specialist centre-forward. It’s good news for the nation.

“Callum is very versatile. I played him as a wing-back against Costa Rica. But we felt that he has also been pretty effective middle-to-front in the Mexico and Peru games.

Manchester United's Scott McTominay has not been included in Alex McLeish's latest squad
Manchester United’s Scott McTominay has not been included in Alex McLeish’s latest squad (Jane Barlow/PA)

“He scored a lot of goals for Cardiff last year and now Neil Warnock has done an emergency manoeuvre when he put him up front. He’s scored a couple of goals against some big clubs over the last three or four weeks so he’s worthy of being in the squad.

“We’re looking at guys who are battle-hardened. We’re going to trust this whole squad to get the results that we need.”


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