Ferguson poised to add bite to attack

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The Independent Online
Craig Brown, Scotland's manager, will not name his selection for this evening's opening qualifying tie against Austria in Vienna's Ernst Happel Stadium until near kick-off. But Duncan Ferguson has been told to give goal-shy Scotland the attacking teeth they have lacked since the retirement of Joe Jordan.

Ferguson has been inked in as a front-line partner for Ally McCoist. The Everton striker will end a 20-month exile from the international scene after injury, suspension and a jail sentence kept him out.

"I am excited about seeing him in action," Brown said. "It is a major plus for us that Duncan is fit and in form. It really has been a startling emergence. He is like a new player. Austria have a big defender at the back but he won't relish the challenge of trying to handle Duncan."

McCoist, whose winner at Euro 96 over Switzerland was one of only three goals in Scotland's last seven games, insists Ferguson's recall adds the aggression sorely missed since Jordan retired in 1982.

Ferguson has yet to score as he looks forward to his sixth appearance and his first since December 1994 against Greece.

McCoist and Ferguson, who hardly played together during the latter's spell at Ibrox, are certain starters in a line-up which virtually picks itself if Colin Hendry is passed fit.

The Blackburn defender, who has a groin injury, threw himself into training yesterday and will be given another test today before Brown decides. "Colin is the only fitness doubt," Brown said, "and I am prepared to wait a bit longer. The medical people are optimistic and I would say the odds are 70-30 that he will play."

If not, Brown could use Craig Burley or Derek Whyte in a three-man defence with Colin Calderwood and Tom Boyd. A switch for Burley would mean Celtic's Jackie McNamara winning his first cap at right-back.

The first choice midfield of Stuart McCall, the captain Gary McAllister, and John Collins remains intact from Euro 96.

Cologne's 32-year-old striker Toni Polster is the local hero with 34 international goals in 76 appearances. He needs one more to overtake Hans Krankl, with 34 in 69, as Austria's top scorer of all time.

SCOTLAND (v Austria, World Cup qualifier, Vienna today): Possible team: Goram (Rangers); McKinlay (Celtic), Burley (Chelsea), Boyd (Celtic), Calderwood (Tottenham), Hendry (Blackburn), McCall (Rangers), McAllister (Coventry), Collins (Monaco), McCoist (Rangers), Ferguson (Everton).

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