Alexander won't call time on Scots yet

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The Independent Football

Graham Alexander has dismissed reports that he has called an end to his Scotland career. The Burnley midfielder was left out of Craig Levein's first squad ahead of next week's friendly against the Czech Republic at Hampden.

One report suggested that the 38-year-old had retired from international football. However, Burnley's website claims that Alexander has spoken to Levein and had been ruled out because of injury. The 38-year-old Clarets player-coach is recovering from a calf strain he suffered at Bolton at the end of last month.

Alexander has returned to light training ahead of Saturday's visit of Portsmouth. The Coventry-born player has won 40 caps for Scotland with his last coming in September in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Macedonia.

Maurice Malpas believes Levein was wrong to recall Kris Boyd and Lee McCulloch to the squad. Both players called an end to their international careers under the former Scotland manager George Burley but were named in Levein's first party.

Malpas, the Inverness assistant manager who won 55 caps, said: "If it was my decision I wouldn't let Kris Boyd and Lee McCulloch anywhere near a Scotland squad again. Playing for your country is an honour and a privilege, but they obviously don't see it that way. They let the country, the fans and their team-mates down, walking out when the country needed them most.

"They seem to think it is a bus ride and they can jump off and back on whenever they please. You can't take holidays whenever you feel like it. Playing for your country should be the pinnacle of your career. You can't turn it on and off like a tap.

"I would have walked over broken glass to play for my country, like many of my international team-mates. Craig will say he is only looking to pick the best players available to him but I don't think Boyd or McCulloch should be back in the Scotland squad."

McCulloch himself is braced for a Tartan Army backlash to his Scotland recall if he takes to the field against Czech Republic on Wednesday.

The Rangers midfielder, who has 15 caps, could make his first international appearance for almost two and a half years. The timing of McCulloch's decision to stop playing for Scotland upset some, with the announcement coming in the middle of the World Cup qualifying double-header against Macedonia and Iceland in September 2008.

McCulloch, who is determined to repay Levein's faith in him, said: "I realise some of the fans won't be happy to see me at Hampden and I totally understand their position. But this is not about Lee McCulloch – this is about Scotland and a new start for the whole country.

"The manager has asked me to be a part of that and I was never ever going to turn him down. If I get a bit of stick from the supporters, then so be it. But I like to think most people will understand the country is in something of a predicament at the moment.

"And the new manager has a massive job on his hands to turn us around. For that reason alone, I would like to think we are all in it together."

As well as McCulloch and Boyd, there has been a recall for the veteran midfielder Paul Hartley, whose international career appeared to have ended under Burley. The Bristol City midfielder is surprised to be in the squad but insisted he would never have quit playing for his country. He said: "I haven't spoken to Craig for a while and I wasn't really expecting to be in this squad. But I'm clearly in his plans and I'm thrilled about that. I'd never shut the door on my Scotland career. It's always an honour to be in the squad."

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