Football / World Cup: Brown decides to leave out McStay

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The Independent Online
CRAIG BROWN, who started his sojourn as Scotland's interim manager by relieving Paul McStay of the captaincy on Monday, yesterday underlined his willingness to take hard decisions when he informed the Celtic playmaker that he would not be in the side to face Italy in the Olympic Stadium tonight.

Since making his debut alongside the likes of Dalglish and Souness in 1983 - a month before his 19th birthday - McStay has been a mainstay. Not once, from the Under-14s upwards, has he been omitted by Scotland when available. Now, however, a combination of his patchy club form and Gary McAllister's emergence as the midfield linchpin has persuaded Brown to bite the bullet.

McStay may still figure as a substitute and, at 28, he has time to add to his 67 caps, but for the penultimate fixture of the Scots' forlorn Group One campaign Brown will keep faith with the engine-room axis of McAllister and Dave Bowman. In an away game against high- quality opposition who urgently need to win if they are to qualify, he believes they offer better defensive and tackling qualities.

That is not to say that Andy Roxburgh's successor views his first game solely as a damage-limitation exercise. After Scotland's only previous victory in five attempts against Italy, a 1-0 success in a World Cup qualifier 28 years ago, an overjoyed Jock Stein plunged into the players' bath fully clothed. Brown maintains that his team can make an even bigger splash.

'In the past, the Italians would have regarded this as an easy fixture,' he said, 'but I'll be very disappointed if Scotland don't have their second victory over Italy by the end of the night.

'There's no doubt that they're a world power, but we have no inferiority complex. I have plenty of 'big occasion' players who won't be intimidated. They'll be going out, organised and knowledgeable, on a platform they should relish.'

Brown's optimism is based in part on a suspicion that the Italian public are becoming 'a bit edgy' about the possibility of losing out to Switzerland and Portugal. 'Whether that will transmit itself to the players is another thing,' he said, 'but there's an incredible amount at stake for them.'

Brown will not confirm his line- up until this evening, but the indications are that Gordon Durie will be asked to fill in on the left side of midfield. That would leave Kevin Gallacher and Eoin Jess, who have one international goal between them, as a pacy strike force to test theories about Franco Baresi's waning powers.

Italy have already lost Maldini, Signori, Lentini and Dino Baggio, so they were relieved when Roberto Baggio reported no worsening of a nagging knee condition yesterday. 'It this was an ordinary game I wouldn't be playing,' the Juventus striker said, 'but it's so important that I don't have a choice.'

ITALY (probable): Pagliuca (Sampdoria); Mussi (Torino), Costacurta (Milan), Baresi (Milan), Benarrivo (Parma), Eranio (Milan), Manicone (Internazionale), Donadoni (Milan), Stroppa (Foggia), R Baggio (Juventus), Casiraghi (Lazio).

SCOTLAND (probable): Gunn (Norwich); McKimmie (Aberdeen), Irvine (Aberdeen), McLaren (Hearts), Boyd (Celtic), McCall (Rangers), Bowman (Dundee United), McAllister (Leeds), Durie (Tottenham), Gallacher (Blackburn), Jess (Aberdeen).

----------------------------------------------------------------- GROUP ONE ----------------------------------------------------------------- P W D L F A Pts Switzerland 8 5 3 0 19 5 13 Italy 8 5 2 1 18 6 12 Portugal 7 4 2 1 14 4 10 Scotland 8 3 3 2 11 10 9 Malta 9 1 1 7 3 21 3 Estonia 8 0 1 7 1 20 1 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Remaining fixtures: Today: Portugal v Switzerland, Italy v Scotland. 10 Nov: Portugal v Estonia. 17 Nov: Italy v Portugal, Switzerland v Estonia, Malta v Scotland. -----------------------------------------------------------------