Football: Hendry in line for linchpin

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND, whose hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup finals were all but destroyed in Lisbon's Stadium of Light, will use tonight's Group One fixture against Estonia in the more spartan surrounds of the Kadriorg stadium in Tallinn to launch their build-up towards the 1996 European Championship finals.

Paul McStay, one of only three probable survivors from the team trounced 5-0 by Portugal last month, will lead what Andy Roxburgh, the national coach, yesterday promised - or warned, depending on your viewpoint - would be 'an experimental, inexperienced side', with the uncapped Colin Hendry earmarked for the role of defensive linchpin.

'A team died in front of our eyes in Lisbon,' Roxburgh said. 'Now there has to be a rebirth.' Hendry, the giant Blackburn centre-back, is likely to partner Aberdeen's Brian Irvine, who has two caps. Roxburgh ignored Hendry after picking him for a B match in 1990, but has been impressed this season by the way that he has curbed the instinct to charge upfield.

Bryan Gunn will stand in for Andy Goram in goal, and the Aberdeen 21- year-olds, Stephen Wright and Scott Booth, are also likely to double their cap totals; and Brian McClair, mysteriously neglected in Lisbon, will surely return in midfield as Scotland revert to a 4-4-2 formation.

Roxburgh has watched the hosts and knows what to expect. They have just one point from five ties, are without a goal and this month became Malta's first-ever World Cup victims. But they have tightened up since losing 6-0 to Switzerland last August, and were beaten only 2-0 in Italy.

The former Soviet republic's citizenship laws mean the Scots may face some players who are fundamentally Finnish, but the main threat to Scotland is a native Estonian. Marko Kristal, 20, plays up front for Flora Tallinn, theoretically the works team of the city's chemical factory. Before an anticipated capacity crowd of 8,500 in a ground of Forfar proportions, Roxburgh will be anxious to balance the need to look to the future against the desire to avoid further humiliation.