Football: Ferguson the Scots' Seedorf

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The Independent Online
CRAIG Brown is poised to hand Rangers' precocious talent, Barry Ferguson, the leading role for Scotland in the European Championship qualifying match with Lithuania after being told he has the new Clarence Seedorf on his hands.

Any fears that the Scotland coach had about giving the 20-year-old midfielder his debut in Vilnius on Saturday were swept away by the glowing testimony he received from Ferguson's club manager, Dick Advocaat.

The Ibrox coach was, of course, in charge of the Dutch national team during the 1994 World Cup finals and believes that Ferguson can make the same impact on the game that Seedorf, the one-time Dutch prodigy, did.

Seedorf was an Ajax player at 16 and had been capped at 17. He helped Real Madrid to win the Champions' League last season and the Dutch to the World Cup semi-finals, yet Advocaat sees his young Scot as a carbon- copy player.

"Dick said to me that Barry has similarities to Seedorf," Brown said, "and is at a similar stage in development. Seedorf is one of the top players in the world, so that is some recommendation from his club manager, who spent plenty of time as Seedorf's coach for Holland."

With Blackburn's Billy McKinlay and David Hopkin of Leeds ruled out through injury, and Celtic's forceful midfielder Craig Burley suspended for the opening Group Nine match - serving a two-match suspension for his World Cup red card against Morocco - Ferguson is being prepared for a place in the starting line-up by Brown.

"He has a good chance of starting," said Brown. "Barry has an assurance about him when he plays and we are looking forward to a good future for him for Scotland."

Ironically, the man who has probably helped the Scotland cause most in the respect of Ferguson is England's Paul Gascoigne. It was only once the stage-hogging Geordie departed Ibrox for Middlesbrough that Ferguson was given the opportunity to flourish in the central playmaker role.

Another midfielder, John Collins, sat out training at Hampden yesterday. The Everton player has a groin injury and will not join the rest of the squad for a workout until they land in Vilnius tomorrow.

Brown also revealed that veteran striker Ally McCoist is almost certain to start against the Lithuanians, partnering Kevin Gallacher in attack.

McCoist, now almost 36, earned a rapid call-up after scoring a hat-trick for his new club Kilmarnock on Sunday against Hearts. "Ally was flying against Hearts and now looks to have a fitness he didn't possess when I left him out of the World Cup finals," Brown said.