Football: Sullivan No 1 for new-look Scotland

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The Independent Online
Craig Brown will give the Scotland supporters a glimpse of the future at Rugby Park tonight by including several new faces for the friendly with Wales.

Neil Sullivan, the cockney goalkeeper from Wimbledon, will make his international debut after establishing his credentials at the end of last year through a Scottish grandparent.

He is seen by Brown as an intermediary between the established pair of Jim Leighton and Andy Goram, filling the gap between those experienced performers and the younger pretenders to the No 1 jersey.

"I have to concede to our goalkeeping coach Alan Hodgkinson in this matter and he's convinced Neil has what it takes to be a success at international level," Brown said. "He is a very capable goalkeeper in whom we have every confidence."

The coach also has confidence in a fledgling central defence. Brian McAllister, another Wimbledon player, is capable of looking after himself at the top level, while Brown is convinced a season playing for Derby County has given Christian Dailly the necessary steel to step up from a promising Under-21 career.

The final new face is that of David Weir, the Hearts defender whose performances this season have attracted the interest of Rangers among others.

However bold the changes might appear, Brown has had his hand forced with the absence of Colin Calderwood and Colin Hendry, both of whom are undergoing surgery, while Alan McLaren, the Rangers defender, is injured.

The new defence will face a testing time against a Welsh front pairing of John Hartson and Dean Saunders. It is a test Brown hopes will allow him to judge his new defensive set-up.

In an unusual step the team was named yesterday and consists of Sullivan, Weir, Boyd, Dailly, Brian McAllister, Tosh McKinlay, Gallacher, Gemmill, Jackson, Gary McAllister and Dodds.

The Rangers pair of Gordon Durie and Ally McCoist are both doubtful for the matches against Malta and then Belarus after picking up injuries in training, but Brown has indicated he is happy to risk further injury by playing two friendlies before the crucial World Cup tie in Belarus on 8 June.

"That is the risk we have to take, because it is more important to have the players ready to play at international standard for the World Cup tie."

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