Football: Brown moves into unknown

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SCOTLAND find themselves bedevilled by familiar problems as they launch a fresh era in tonight's friendly against the Netherlands at Hampden Park, writes Phil Shaw.

Craig Brown, sending a team out for the first time amid the profusion of coloured plastic seats that is the new-look national stadium, was yesterday forced to discount both Ally McCoist and John McGinlay from his forward options. McCoist is still short of sharpness after his enforced lay-off, while Brown felt it unfair to put the uncapped Bolton striker in the spotlight after a debilitating stomach bug.

The Scots may therefore look to an untried striking partnership of Pat Nevin, who began his career under Brown at Clyde a decade ago, and Gordon Durie. The conditional tense is used advisedly, for Andy Roxburgh's successor is guarding his first home selection like a state secret.

Brown did confirm, however, that Andy Goram will return in goal, 11 months and one major knee operation after leaking five goals in Portugal, and that David Robertson will win his third cap at left back. There was also a hint that Craig Levein would play, possibly as sweeper, while Paul McStay and Gary McAllister will be asked to prove the manager's dubious assertion that they are not mutually exclusive.

By contrast, the Dutch appeared laid back almost to the point of insouciance as they flew in to Glasgow yesterday. Dennis Bergkamp, who scored the only goal when the sides met at the European Championship finals in 1992, epitomised the attitude when he was plied with leading questions about the controversial absence of Richard Gough.

Not only would he proffer no opinion but he also appeared not to have heard of the Rangers captain. Had any other Scots made an impression on him in Gothenberg? 'No, not really,' answered the striker whose Manchester United-mad parents named him after Denis Law.

'We have a tradition of not playing well in friendlies,' Bergkamp ventured, 'but what's important is that the squad is together again and we can discuss things.' The 38,000 sell-out crowd are likely to view the game as more than a chance for the Netherlands to become re-acquainted, a feeling Brown shares. 'We'll be as positive as we can,' he said. 'We'll try to take the game to them, and we've got the experience and ability to control the match.'

SCOTLAND (1-4-3-2; probable): Goram (Rangers), Levein (Hearts); McKimmie (Aberdeen), Hendry (Blackburn), McLaren (Hearts), Robertson (Rangers); McStay (Celtic), McAllister (Leeds, capt), McCall (Rangers); Nevin (Tranmere), Durie (Rangers).

NETHERLANDS (1-2-4-3; probable): De Goey (Feyernoord); Blind (Ajax); Van Gobbel (Feyernoord), F De Boers (Ajax), Rijkaard (Ajax), Winter (Lazio), Jonk (Internazionale), Witschge (Feynoord); Overmars (Ajax), Bergkamp (Internazionale), Roy (Foggia).

(Photograph omitted)

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