Football: Roxburgh looking for a new leader

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The Independent Online
Andy Roxburgh was last night considering his position over one club captain embroiled in the Stuttgart saga, Gary McAllister of Leeds, after revealing his options for replacing another, Rangers' Richard Gough, in Scotland's squad to face Portugal in a World Cup qualifying match in Glasgow a week tomorrow.

With Gough suspended after being sent off in the opening Group One defeat in Switzerland - and injured anyway - the national coach has turned again to Craig Levein. The 27-year-old Heart of Midlothian defender appeared in the Scots' final two European Championship qualifiers a year ago, playing superbly in Romania, but was overlooked for the finals in Sweden.

In his absence Derek Whyte understudied the centre-back pairing of Gough and Dave McPherson, and was watched by Roxburgh playing for Middlesbrough against Manchester United on Saturday. Whyte, formerly with Celtic, would therefore seem the likelier choice, although the understanding Levein and McPherson developed prior to the latter's transfer to Rangers may earn him preference.

Both Levein and Whyte are mobile players, happier tidying up while the other central defender attacks the ball. In the face of what Roxburgh anticipates will be some quickfire counter-attacking by the Portuguese, the loss of Gough may not be felt quite so keenly as it might have been.

There are three other changes from the squad on duty in Berne. Gordon Durie's lack of match practice following knee surgery, during which he suffered a reaction to the anaesthetic, has left a vacancy for a striker, though it will not be filled by Duncan Ferguson, who is demoted to the Under-21s. Gordon Marshall, out of favour at Celtic, is not replaced as third- choice goalkeeper.

John Robertson, the diminutive Hearts striker who scored on each of his first two appearances for Scotland, is recalled after Roxburgh watched him and Levein give 'outstanding' displays against Slavia Prague last week. Also returning, largely on the back of excellent European showings, are the midfielders Ian Ferguson, last capped in 1989, and John Collins.

The prospects of Collins or Ferguson starting the match, like those of Ian Durrant, are likely to hinge upon the condition of the established midfield quartet of McAllister, McCall, McStay and McClair, all the more so if Roxburgh allows the first-named to lead Leeds in Europe at the weekend.

Durie's role as partner to Ally McCoist appears to rest between Robertson and Kevin Gallacher, a regular substitute. Roxburgh tends to talk about Robertson as a penalty-box predator, though his scoring record may make him a more attractive proposition than the pacy but hardly prolific Coventry man.

With Scotland already trailing in the group table, and anxious to make the most of the first of three home fixtures this autumn, the likelihood is that both players will appear at some stage.

SCOTLAND SQUAD (v Portugal, World Cup Group One, Ibrox Park, Glasgow, 14 October): Goram (Rangers), Smith (Heart of Midlothian); Boyd (Celtic), Malpas (Dundee United), McLaren (Hearts), Whyte (Middlesbrough), McPherson (Rangers), Levein (Hearts), McStay (Celtic), McInally (Dundee United), McCall (Rangers), McClair (Manchester United), McAllister (Leeds), Collins (Celtic), Durrant (Rangers), I Ferguson (Rangers), Nevin (Tranmere), Robertson (Hearts), McCoist (Rangers), Gallacher (Coventry).

SCOTLAND UNDER-21 SQUAD (v Portugal, Uefa Under-21 Championship, McDiarmid Park, Perth, 13 October): Reid (Hibernian), Howie (Clyde); Burley (Chelsea), Salton (Luton), Wright (Aberdeen), Murray (Rangers), Bain (Dundee), Bollan (Dundee Utd), Henry (Clydebank), Bernard (Oldham), Johnson (Dundee Utd), McAuley (St Johnstone), O'Neil (Celtic), Johnston (Falkirk), Hagen (Rangers), Roddie (Aberdeen), D Ferguson (Dundee Utd), Dailly (Dundee Utd).

Bernard McNally, the West Bromwich Albion captain, has been recalled to the Northern Ireland international scene after a four-and-a-half-year absence. The 29-year-old midfield player is included in Billy Bingham's squad for the World Cup Group Three qualifier against Spain in Belfast tomorrow week. Reading's veteran striker, Jimmy Quinn, is also brought back. The Dundee United forward, Michael O'Neill, who appeared as a substitute against Albania last month, and the Glentoran part-timer, Raymond Campbell, who did not get on, are the players who make way for the two comeback men.

NORTHERN IRELAND SQUAD (v Spain, World Cup Group Three, Windsor Park, Belfast, 14 October): Wright (Newcastle), Fettis (Hull); Donaghy (Chelsea), McDonald (QPR), Worthington (Sheffield Wednesday), Taggart, Fleming (both Barnsley), Morrow (Arsenal), K Wilson (Notts County), Black (Nottingham Forest), Clarke (Portsmouth), Hughes (Strasbourg), Magilton (Oxford), Dowie (Southampton), Rowland (Bournemouth), McNally (West Bromwich), Quinn (Reading).

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