Football: Back-up strikers take bite out of big apple

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The Independent Online
FIRST they take Manhattan, then they take Brazil. With a fortnight left before they open France 98 against the world champions, Scotland's players were allowed out of their suburban training camp to explore the Big Apple yesterday, having first taken a substantial bite out of the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in a 4-0 victory.

The hastily arranged friendly against the Major League Soccer club, played behind closed doors at a local college stadium, was designed to give match practice to the players who did not appear in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Colombia. In the event, Scotland's line-up included Colin Hendry, who will captain them in the finals, plus four others who played at Giants Stadium.

Those perennial rivals for the goalkeeping slot, Jim Leighton and Andy Goram, each took half a game, but according to Craig Brown "had nothing to do". The Scotland manager said that they may also share the last warm- up fixture, against the United States in Washington DC on Saturday, but suggested that, if either played for longer than the other, that would be a pointer to his preference against the Brazilians on 10 June.

Pleasingly for Brown, there were goals for two of his back-up strikers. Celtic's Simon Donnelly scored twice, while Scott Booth, who spent much of last season on loan from Borussia Dortmund to Utrecht, added another. The fourth goal came from Kieron McAnespie, a St Johnstone teenager who has accompanied the squad to the US to gain experience, carry the kit hampers and make up the numbers in such "bounce" games.

Nottingham Forest's Scot Gemmill, who Brown described as outstanding in midfield, said that the exercise served its purpose in sharpening match- fitness. However, he was disappointed by the standard of the opposition. The MetroStars fielded all their first team, including international strikers from Ecuador and Venezuela, yet Gemmill cited 32-year-old Paul Dougherty, a 5ft 3in former Wolves midfielder, as their best player.

Intriguingly, Brown revealed that there was a first Scottish "cap" for one Barry Swift, a rookie striker of Trinidadian descent. The Scots borrowed the 21-year-old from the MetroStars, whom he joined from the Martin Luther King High School in Brooklyn, when they ran out of substitutes late on.

Swift's fame will be of the Warholian variety, alas, for Scotland expect to have their full complement of attackers to choose from against the Americans. The first-choice pair, Kevin Gallacher and Gordon Durie, are both recovering well and are confident of playing at the Robert F Kennedy Stadium.