SCOTLAND CALL-OFFS: WHY ARE OUR PLAYERS PICKING CLUB OVER COUNTRY?

Scotland will be without star players such as Liverpool’s Andy Robertson and Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney for their upcoming matches. (Credit: EN4 News)

 

The build up to Scotland’s upcoming European Championship Qualifiers against Cyprus and Kazakhstan gave been marred, once again, by several high-profile withdrawals from the squad.

Captain Andy Robertson, Liam Cooper, Ryan Fraser and Scott McTominay have all dropped out due to injury, while Arsenal have asked for key player Kieran Tierney to be left out after just returning from a long-term double hernia problem.

Scotland are unable to qualify through the traditional route with only two games remaining, but could still make it to their first major championships since 1998 if they can navigate their way through the UEFA Nations League. With little importance left on the last two games and a string of questionable late withdrawals from the squads, some have questioned whether the calls-offs are genuine, and if players are giving 100% when playing for Scotland.

All four players that have left the Scotland squad played for their clubs at the weekend, but only two, Liam Cooper and Scott McTominay, came off with injuries, while the others played the full 90 minutes with no apparent problems.

In August, we were given a glimpse into the attitude of some players towards playing for Scotland. A YouTube video surfaced of Sheffield United striker Oli McBurnie expressing his negative feelings towards playing for the national team. McBurnie later apologised for his comments, saying they were taken out of context.

 

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Former Scotland International Kevin Gallacher thinks key players have a poor attitude towards playing for the national team.

“I’m told now that clubs don’t want their players injured. So maybe players are looking after themselves a little bit more,” Gallacher told BBC Sport Scotland.

“Which means in games for Scotland they’re maybe not giving their 100%. In our time you just gave 100% whether you were going to get injured or not. It didn’t matter.

“I got injured a few times playing for Scotland and I went back to my club and they weren’t happy but for me it wouldn’t stop me playing for Scotland. No matter what, I was going to do it.”

Gallacher, who won 53 caps for Scotland, highlighted the issue of clubs putting pressure on their players to minimise the risk of injury.

Last year, Bournemouth demanded Ryan Fraser to not travel with Scotland to play Kazakhstan because the surface of the pitch in Astana was plastic. The club were concerned the chance of injury was too high, although there is no data to support that players get injured more often or severely on artificial surface as opposed to grass.

Scotland assistant manager Alex Dyer has refuted the claims that certain players are pulling out of the Scotland squad for reasons other than injury.

“If a player is injured, we can’t do anything about it,” Dyer said at a press conference this week.

“All the ones that have pulled out this time are genuinely injured. It’s not like they wanted to be pulled out or didn’t want to come.”

Scotland have had 27 call-offs since last November, far more than any other home nation. Two-thirds of players that have pulled out have featured for their clubs within two games of the club football restarting after the international break.

The statistics suggest that clubs are using certain international breaks that are seen as less important to them, allowing the players time to rest and recover from an ever demanding season of league, cup and European games.

While the other home nations have seen good levels of success in recent years, Scotland have had little to cheer about. With more dead rubbers coming up due to early exits from competitions, players are becoming more willing to miss games than in years gone by.

And until Scotland start to see some level of success, it is likely players will continue to choose their clubs over their country.

 

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