Burchill steps in as Dodds takes paternity leave

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The Independent Football

Scottish fans flying into the Croatian capital ahead of tomorrow's World Cup qualifier may have been startled to see several familiar faces, albeit bloodied and bruised in one instance, heading in the opposite direction yesterday.

Scottish fans flying into the Croatian capital ahead of tomorrow's World Cup qualifier may have been startled to see several familiar faces, albeit bloodied and bruised in one instance, heading in the opposite direction yesterday.

Four of Scotland's starting XI against San Marino last Saturday were homeward bound. Billy Dodds was the only one not injured, the Rangers striker leaving to attend the birth of his first child.

Dodds had alerted Craig Brown to the likelihood of the baby being born the day of the Croatia game and the manager said he "respected his wishes". The player will return if the new arrival comes early, although contingency plans have been drawn up.

Manchester City's Paul Dickov is earmarked for Dodds' place after winning his first senior cap as a weekend substitute. Celtic's Mark Burchill, currently on loan to Birmingham, has been promoted from the Under-21s as cover.

Christian Dailly, who suffered what Brown termed "a terrible facial injury" in a clash of heads in San Marino, has gone back to Blackburn with his nose broken in three places. Neil McCann returned to Rangers for treatment on a swollen ankle, while Jackie McNamara will check in at Celtic today with sciatica and an ankle injury. Craig Burley, the Derby midfielder who had stayed behind to have his troublesome back manipulated by a chiropractor, passed them on his way in. But the spate of departures, following the loss of Paul Lambert, Barry Ferguson and Dominic Matteo, leaves Scotland's resources looking slender for a fixture in which defeat would dislodge them from the Group Six summit.

Brown watched their opponents' 2-0 victory against the Zagreb club Sesvete on Sunday, after which Croatia's coach, Miroslav Blazevic, declared that Davor Suker would "definitely" not be fi to play. Blazevic, "a wily old fox" according to Brown, changed his tune yesterday, saying the West Ham and former Arsenal predator might well start.

"The attitude of Croatia's players was impressive given that they were playing a Second Division side with only 3,000 watching," Brown said. "These guys who play for Inter Milan, Hamburg and so on could have been swanning around but they played conscientiously."

Meanwhile, the Scottish FA's international committee sought to draw a line under the Jim Leighton affair by issuing a statement about the unrest caused by his forthcoming autobiography. "The committee heard an explanation from the team manager and were satisfied that the stories [Leighton's] lacked credibility," it read. "There is a crucial World Cup qualifier to be played here on Wednesday. The focus has to be on football. There will accordingly be no further comment on the book, either from the SFA or the manager."

Manchester United's Alex Notman teams up with Kevin Kyle of Sunderland in the Under-21 attack in Koprivnica this afternoon, in Burchill's absence.

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