Football: Tottenham lose Durie to Roxburgh

BITTER experience yesterday prompted Andy Roxburgh, the Scotland coach, to invoke Fifa rules and insist that Gordon Durie joins their preparations for next Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Malta rather than play for Tottenham in Sunday's FA Cup tie against Wimbledon.

The Durie decision has its roots in the Scots' Group One fixture in Switzerland last September, when Roxburgh did not seek the release of Brian McClair and Gary McAllister from the preceding Sunday's Manchester United-Leeds game. Both looked jaded as Scotland lost 3-1, a start from which their campaign has yet to recover.

'We tried to be nice to everyone before the Swiss game and it backfired on us,' Roxburgh said. 'It is something I felt we had to do. Durie is one of our first picks and we have picked him.'

Roxburgh has rung the changes for Malta's visit to Glasgow, naming eight players who did not feature in his original selection for the 0-0 draw at home to Italy in November. In a squad which reflects the ascendancy of Rangers and the resurgence of Aberdeen, the most surprising newcomer is the uncapped Dons striker Duncan Shearer.

Off-loaded by Blackburn last summer to make way for his namesake Alan, the 30-year-old Inverness Clachnacuddin discovery has 23 goals this season despite missing two months through injury. 'There's always a place for a late developer,' Roxburgh said.

Shearer's club captain, Alex McLeish, returns at the age of 34 after an injury-enforced absence since winning his 76th cap two years ago. According to Roxburgh, he offers 'nice security' with Richard Gough now struggling for fitness after being suspended for the Italian match.

Two younger Aberdeen players - the right-back Stephen Wright (21) and 15-goal Eoin Jess (22) - are also included, Jess having appeared as a late replacement against Italy. There are also recalls for Pat Nevin, Alan McLaren and Bryan Gunn.

Out go the Hearts pair Henry Smith and Craig Levein, the injured Middlesbrough defender Derek Whyte, plus Rangers' Ian Durrant and Ian Ferguson. Durrant has been given a week's holiday by Rangers after the strain of his recent legal action. There is no place for Brian McClair, who was booed at Ibrox against Portugal and might not be seen again until Scotland are back at Hampden.

With most of his squad playing on Saturday, conjecture about Roxburgh's starting line-up is premature. However, with Scotland urgently requiring victory to kick- start their quest to qualify, it is safe to assume that Durie, Shearer, Jess and Nevin may all join Ally McCoist in trying to improve Scotland's goal difference at some stage.

SCOTLAND SQUAD (v Malta, World Cup Group One, Ibrox, 17 February): Goram (Rangers), Gunn (Norwich); Wright (Aberdeen), McLaren (Heart of Midlothian), Malpas (Dundee United), McLeish (Aberdeen), McPherson (Rangers), Boyd (Celtic), Gough (Rangers), McStay (Celtic), Collins (Celtic), McAllister (Leeds), McCall (Rangers), Nevin (Tranmere), Durie (Tottenham), Jess (Aberdeen), McCoist (Rangers), Shearer (Aberdeen), Robertson (Hearts).

NORTHERN IRELAND will be hoping for a first World Cup goal in Albania tomorrow week from the Southampton striker Iain Dowie to revive their qualifying hopes in Group Three. Billy Bingham, the manager, brings Dowie back to replace Northern Ireland's all-time leading scorer Colin Clarke, who has a knee injury. Dowie is expected to partner Jimmy Quinn.

With only four points from four qualifiers in Belfast, Bingham said: 'We have to go after both points in Tirana. Getting them won't be easy, but this definitely isn't a mission impossible.'

Besides Dowie, Bingham also recalls Tommy Wright (Newcastle), Michael O'Neill (Dundee United) and Bernie McNally (West Brom).

NORTHERN IRELAND SQUAD (v Albania, World Cup Group Three, Tirana, 17 February): Wright (Newcastle), Fettis (Hull City); Donaghy (Chelsea), McDonald (Queen's Park Rangers), Taggart, Fleming (both Barnsley), Morrow (Arsenal), K Wilson (Notts County), Black (Nottingham Forest), Hughes (Strasbourg), Magilton (Oxford United), Rowland (AFC Bournemouth), Quinn (Reading), Gray (Luton Town), Dowie (Southampton), O'Neill (Dundee United), McNally (West Bromwich Albion).