Football / World Cup: McKinnon's road to Rome

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The Independent Online
CRAIG BROWN launched a new era for Scotland yesterday by naming a squad for next week's World Cup tie against Italy in Rome which, though largely predictable in composition, included a defender who was playing for Hartlepool United 18 months ago.

Rob McKinnon, a Glaswegian rescued from the English lower divisions by Motherwell, was the surprised and surprising beneficiary of Scotland's new broom. Brown hinted at introducing the 27-year-old left-back at the Olympic Stadium, saying: 'He has few equals going forward, and he has worked hard at his defensive game.

'Without John Collins on the left, Rob's versatility may be needed. His delivery is good, and he might not be there just for the decoration.' McKinnon's club colleague, Chris McCart, and Dundee United's goalscoring midfielder, Billy McKinlay, who the interim manager likened to Graeme Souness, are the only uncapped outfield players.

Brown's first selection, which contains 13 of his former Under-21 charges, was never likely to be revolutionary. In the interests of continuity he had hoped to stick as close as possible to the team who earned a creditable draw with the Group One leaders, Switzerland, last month.

Injuries to Collins, Craig Levein and Scott Booth disabused him of that idea. However, the return of Paul McStay, Stuart McCall and Alan McLaren - who marked Roberto Baggio out of the first meeting at Ibrox - hardly reduces his options for a match which, though of academic interest to the Scots, might be crucial to Italy's chances of qualifying.

The customary spate of withdrawals could change the situation, but as things stand McCall and the out-of-form McStay may find themselves in the unfamiliar position of warming the bench. Brown was impressed by the rapport struck up against the Swiss by the midfield axis of Gary McAllister, who is set to retain the captaincy, and Dave Bowman.

Italy will be without Demetrio Albertini, the Milan midfielder who is a regular team member, because of a head injury sustained against Lazio on Sunday.

While Brown played down the idea that he would be on trial, a respectable result against one of the tournament favourites would clearly go a long way towards winning him the job.

Jim Holton, 42, the former Manchester United and Scotland centre-half, died of a suspected heart attack near his Coventry home yesterday.

SCOTLAND SQUAD (Group One tie v Italy, Rome, 13 October): Gunn (Norwich), Maxwell (Rangers), Main (Dundee United); Boyd (Celtic), McKimmie (Aberdeen), Robertson (Rangers), McKinnon (Motherwell), Irvine (Aberdeen), McCart (Motherwell), McLaren (Hearts), Durrant (Rangers), Ian Ferguson (Rangers), Bowman (Dundee Utd), McCall (Rangers), McKinlay (Dundee Utd), McAllister (Leeds), McStay (Celtic), O'Donnell (Motherwell), Nevin (Tranmere), Jess (Aberdeen), Durie (Tottenham), Gallacher (Blackburn).

Scotland's freshman, page 30