Football: Scotland aim to sharpen attack

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The Independent Online
HEARTS' NEIL McCann could be poised to make his first international start for Scotland on the reassuring turf of home ground as manager Craig Brown again finds himself with a shortage of attacking options.

Brown tomorrow names his squad for the Euro 2000 qualifiers against Estonia a week on Saturday at Tynecastle and the 14 October meeting with the Faroe Islands at Pittodrie.

McCann, who made his debut as a late substitute in the goalless draw against Lithuania, may line up from the outset because of an injury to Kevin Gallacher.

The Blackburn forward will be named in the squad but is suffering from a persistent calf strain and is considered doubtful for Saturday's clash with West Ham. He said: "Not playing means I am now badly short of the necessary match practice."

Brown agreed: "I am hoping that Kevin can get a game under his belt before this important match with Estonia, but he will still be in the squad even if the situation isn't perfect at the moment."

Brown will keep faith with veteran Ally McCoist who earned a dramatic recall after a hat-trick for Kilmarnock against Hearts having been omitted from the original squad.

But there seems no prospect of Gordon Durie returning to the fold despite his swift rate of recovery following ankle ligament damage incurred playing for Rangers against PAOK Salonika in August.

Brown had hinted at starting with McCann in a more central role against Lithuania to the one he adopts for his club side, but McCoist's late goalscoring burst convinced him otherwise.

A lack of goals was Scotland's main flaw at France 98 with first-choice pairing Gallacher and Durie both failing to score, although having to tackle back and work the flanks hardly helped their cause.

The Celtic duo of Darren Jackson and Simon Donnelly remain in contention and stay in the squad but neither have been a settled fixture at Parkhead this season and Brown may well be tempted to exploit McCann's popularity in Edinburgh.

The Rangers midfielder Barry Ferguson, promoted from the under-21s because of injuries last time round, will be in the full squad and, with Craig Burley suspended for the Estonia game, has a genuine chance of featuring.

The man he has often been compared with, the former Ibrox star, Ian Durrant, now with Kilmarnock, could figure depending on the fitness of the likes of Hearts' Stevie Fulton (groin) and Nottingham Forest's Scot Gemmill (hamstring).

Celtic's Tom Boyd is another injury concern because of a hamstring problem, while Newcastle's Stephen Glass, who has emerged impressively under the guidance of Ruud Gullit on Tyneside, might come into the frame.

With Glass's former team, Aberdeen, struggling for form, the spotlight has again fallen on the dual role of Alex Miller as the Dons manager and Brown's assistant for Scotland, but the man himself sees no conflict of interest. Miller said: "Craig knows if something urgent at Aberdeen arises it will be prioritised. I have never neglected my club duties at any time while I have been with Scotland."