Football: Scotland's striking blow

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The Independent Online
Craig Brown, the Scotland coach, was yesterday hit with a double blow to his attacking options when Aberdeen's Duncan Shearer and Hibernian's Darren Jackson both missed training and were rated doubtful for tomorrow's European Championship match against Finland at Hampden Park.

Both started in last month's victory over Greece. "We will be lucky to have one of the two available to us, but at least I have four strikers in the squad," Brown said.

Aberdeen's Scott Booth now looks certain to start his first international since last November, while Chelsea's John Spencer joins Ally McCoist and John Robertson in the reckoning.

Brown also confirmed he has decided on his No 1 goalkeeper - but is keeping it secret until today. The Rangers keeper, Andy Goram, is back in the fold after his walk-out before the Greece game, when he said he was not "mentally attuned". The Hibernian veteran, Jim Leighton, won his 69th cap and is odds-on to retain his place.

Liverpool's pounds 2m teenager, Mark Kennedy, was yesterday called up to join the Republic of Ireland squad for their qualifier against Austria in Vienna. Jason McAteer has withdrawn, prompting speculation that his transfer from Bolton Wanderers is imminent.

Jack Charlton, who has also lost Aston Villa's Steve Staunton and Blackburn's Jeff Kenna through injuries, said: "I'm short of options in that area. I'm not saying he [Kennedy] will play, but you might be surprised by the team I pick."

Privately, the Republic manager is seething over Bolton's failure to notify him of the player's withdrawal until around mid-day yesterday, but he said: "The kid is under a bit of pressure. The first we knew of him apparently having an injury was from his mother, who told us he had been troubled a little by an ankle."

Wales have been given a boost prior to tomorrow's qualifer against Moldova with the announcment of a pounds 50,000 one-year deal with Burger King, who are also sponsoring England - to the tune of pounds 1m.

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