With Euro 2020 looming on the horizon, players are running out of time to impress Scotland head coach Steve Clarke.
Over half of the squad is likely inked in, but there are arguably 10 positions still up for grabs, with Uefa’s expansion of the permitted squad sizes from 23 to 26 giving scope for more players to be included.
But who has already booked their place? Who has an anxious wait? And who might be a late bolter?
Whose bags are already packed?
These are the best Scotland can pick from, and those that have consistently started games since Clarke took charge and those who will be part of the squad this summer, injury permitting.
They range from obvious Premier League stars such as Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Scott McTominay and John McGinn, to the settled goalkeeping trio of David Marshall, Craig Gordon and Jon McLaughlin, and take in squad stalwarts such as Stephen O’Donnell and Kenny McLean.
Despite only making his debut in March, Southampton’s Che Adams now also seems to be among this group, given the lack of depth up front and his strong showing in the recent World Cup qualifiers. And the same goes for Grant Hanley.
Ryan Jack would have been in this batch, too, but the Rangers midfielder’s persistent calf injury means he is ruled out of the finals.
So what about the rest?
That leaves 10 places up for grabs in Clarke’s final, extended, squad. But who will get them?
Sheffield Wednesday’s Liam Palmer has been in squads consistently and would be the prime candidate to be O’Donnell’s understudy on the right of defence. Nathan Patterson had staked a late claim, but the 19-year-old Rangers full-back has had his season ended early by a Covid breach ban and seems set to miss out.
It’s feasible that Tierney and McTominay could play as two of the three centre-backs, although Jack’s injury might mean the latter is more likely to play in midfield and the former is a slight injury concern.
Regardless, there are plenty of natural central defenders fighting it out for places. Aberdeen’s Andrew Considine, Declan Gallagher of Motherwell, Leeds captain Liam Cooper, Scott McKenna of Nottingham Forest, and Celtic’s Jack Hendry are those in contention.
Given his performances in the play-off, Gallagher is probably in pole position, but it was McKenna who was given (limited) game time ahead of him in the recent World Cup qualifiers. Given Clarke can now take 26 players, it might be that both go, as well as one other centre back.
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Centre midfield is by far Scotland’s strongest area, and many fans have been clamouring for the inclusion of two young prospects in particular – Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour and David Turnbull of Celtic. Ryan Gauld is also a popular choice given his exploits for Farense in the Portuguese top flight.
However, on the evidence of previous squads, Sheffield United’s John Fleck will likely claim a place. Clarke rates him highly, and the Scotland boss is not the kind to bow to pressure for a more glamorous option.
The injury to Jack, though, might leave the door open for one of those first three to squeak in. Gilmour is the most similar in terms of style, but Turnbull and Gauld have played far more games this term.
The forward area is arguably where Clarke has the most thinking to do.
James Forrest made his return for Celtic earlier in April after five months out with injury, but has since suffered an, apparently slight, setback. However, his track record surely demands his inclusion if fit enough.
Beyond that, it’s a bun fight. Sheffield United’s Oli McBurnie appeared likely to be among the group, but he is now out with injury, leaving at least one place for a striker to complement Adams and Dykes.
Callum Paterson, Leigh Griffiths, Lawrence Shankland, Oliver Burke, and Johnny Russell have all played under Clarke but were not included for the qualifiers in March. Hibernian’s Kevin Nisbet was, but has only won one cap and his form has tailed off since the first half of the season.
At this stage nobody has built a compelling case. Might Clarke settle for fewer out-and-out strikers, giving him the option of another midfielder or defender?
That is a decision he will have to make before naming his squad before the 1 June deadline. But, assuming 16 places are already secured, how would you complete the squad? Make your selection below…
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