Ferguson handed European chance

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The Independent Online
Duncan Ferguson was yesterday given the chance to prove he is the man to lead Scotland's challenge for Euro 96 when Craig Brown named him in a 23-man squad for next Wednesday's friendly international against Australia at Hampden Park.

However, the Everton striker must first prove his fitness and yesterday he saw a specialist to see if he needs a third hernia operation in the space of year. Ferguson and his club manager, Joe Royle, will go through the doctor's report and advice today.

"We would like Duncan to start the game against Australia next week," Brown said. "There has been talk of him having an operation this summer, in which circumstance he would clearly be no use to us."

Brown had assembled 32 players for a get-together a fortnight ago, but now, as preparations for Euro 96 begin in earnest, nine players have been jettisoned.

"The ones left out have not been bombed out," Brown said. "But this squad is a clear indication of my thoughts for Euro 96."

The nine players dropping out, apart from the injured Stewart McKimmie of Aberdeen are: Gordon Durie (Rangers), Bryan Gunn (Norwich), John McGinlay (Bolton), Brian Martin (Motherwell), Phil O'Donnell (Celtic), Brian O'Neil (Celtic), John Robertson (Hearts) and Duncan Shearer (Aberdeen).

If Ferguson, 24, is fit, he will win his sixth cap next week, while his former Rangers team-mate, Ally McCoist, could enter the Scottish Football Association's "Hall of Fame" if he receives his 50th cap.

"It will be a hard game for us and I would say if we lost, that would be a blow in the preparations," Brown said.

SCOTLAND SQUAD (v Australia, Hampden Park, Wednesday 27 March): Booth (Aberdeen), Boyd (Celtic), Burley (Chelsea), Calderwood (Tottenham), Collins (Celtic), Ferguson (Everton), Gallacher (Blackburn), Gemmill (Nottm Forest), Goram (Rangers), Hendry (Blackburn), Jackson (Hibs), Jess (Coventry), Leighton (Hibs), McAllister (Leeds), McCall (Rangers), McCoist (Rangers), T McKinlay (Celtic), W McKinlay (Blackburn), McLaren (Rangers), McStay (Celtic), Nevin (Tranmere), Spencer (Chelsea), Walker (Partick).