Drop holds no threat for McKinlay

Click to follow
Craig Brown, the Scotland manager, has assured the Dundee United player Billy McKinlay that relegation will not impede his international career.

McKinlay, who stepped on to a plane for Japan yesterday as one of Brown's 17-man squad for the Kirin Cup tournament, has spent much of the last month kicking his heels in frustration as a three-match suspension ruled him out of United's unsuccessful battle against the drop from the Scottish Premier Division.

McKinlay could be on the move this summer but Brown has assured him he will not be jettisoned if he begins next season playing First Division football at Tannadice.

"I've spoken to Billy about his situation," the Scotland manager said as his squad prepared to fly out from Glasgow yesterday. "He is delighted to be coming with Scotland on this trip. He is up for it and there is no question of his attitude not being right because of United's relegation."

Brown is looking for 26-year-old McKinlay, who has scored three times in nine appearances for his country, to cement his claim for a midfield place in the games against Japan and Ecuador.

"If he is playing in the First Division next season I won't rule him out for simply that reason. We do have players from the English First Division in the squad, although I believe that is of a higher standard.

"I see Billy McKinlay as a Scotland international player for many years to come."

McKinlay, with nine caps, is one of the most capped players on the Japan trip, with seven yet to make their senior debut for Scotland. Brown argues that the trip is an opportunity to impress for Paul Bernard (Oldham), Craig Burley (Chelsea), Scot Gemmill (Nottingham Forest), Stephen Woods, Brian Martin and Paul Lambert (all Motherwell) and the 21-year-old Stephen Crawford (Raith).

The Hibernian goalkeeper Jim Leighton has been appointed Scotland captain for the two games against Japan in Hiroshima on Sunday and Ecuador in Toyama next Wednesday. Leighton, 36, could even keep the role for the European Championship match in the Faroe Islands on 7 June.

"Jim is getting the honour because of his excellence both as a player and as a person," said Brown, who is without Gary McAllister, Paul McStay and Colin Hendry.

Leighton has signed a new two-year contract to stay with Hibs, and on Tuesday collected a pounds 1,000 prize from Tennents for going 391 minutes without conceding a goal in the Scottish Cup. The former Manchester United goalkeeper will be almost 39 when his new contract with Hibs expires but he has yet to set a retirement date.

"I don't think that is a good idea because when you set a target you always want more when you reach it," he said. "I hope I will know when to retire but at this stage I'm very happy at Hibs. They have been good to me and hopefully I have been good for them."