Desperate Berti can put Winters in wonderland

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The Independent Football

Some 6,000 people will make their way from Norway to Glasgow next Saturday. Robbie Winters hopes to be one of them. The visitors will form part of a sell-out crowd at Hampden Park for the World Cup qualifying tie, but for Winters the occasion could be a special homecoming. After five years out in the international cold, the exiled Scot is hoping to pull on a dark-blue shirt again.

The 29-year-old earns his money by playing in Norway. This season, his form has been so good that it has helped his club, Brann Bergen, within sight of winning a Uefa Cup place. News of Winters's 23 goals reached Berti Vogts, not exactly overrun with prolific scorers, and he sent his scout, Archie Gemmill, to assess whether Winters was worth recalling to the Scotland set-up.

Gemmill watched the former Dundee United and Aberdeen striker score in Brann's 5-1 rout of fourth-placed Lyn Olso, managed by Roy Hodgson, formerly of Blackburn, and Winters will hear tomorrow if he has a chance to earn another cap to go with the one from a memorable debut, when he helped Scotland win 1-0 in Germany in 1999.

The idea of putting in someone fresh with a proven track record of success from your opponents' domestic league is a novel one, but given Scotland's costly goalless draw in the opening Group Five game with Slovenia last month, any goal threat will be welcome.

"I'd read about getting a Scotland call-up but refused to believe it," said Winters on Friday. "So it was nice when Archie came across to see me against Lyn. I scored a good goal, set up another and had a shot come off the bar. It would be great if I was called back into the national team, especially if it was against the country I now live in."

Winters moved to Norway two years ago after his contract expired at Aberdeen, whose financial troubles meant they could not hold on to him. He had been their record signing when they had recruited Scotland's young player of the year in a deal worth £1m from Dundee United in 1998 that took Billy Dodds, then a Scotland striker, in the other direction as a makeweight.

Winters's time at Pittodrie was dogged by injury, though he did manage to score 20 in his last season. His one brief taste of the big occasion came when Aberdeen reached the Scottish Cup final in 2000, but a broken jaw for Jim Leighton in the first minute meant Winters never got a chance to show what he could do; he spent 89 minutes in goal with Leighton's gloves on as an emergency keeper, and his side lost 4-0.

However, being in Bergen has not insulated him from the tide of criticism that threatens to consume Vogts's team. "They've been getting slammed, but it's a relatively new manager, and he's bringing a lot of kids in," said Winters. "He's building a squad for a few years, and getting more experience into some of the youngsters that are there. It's very difficult because they've not been doing well, and they have to win games to get confidence and belief.

"Norway have a good team. It'll be difficult for Scotland to come here, but I also think it'll be tough for Norway to travel to Hampden. Like Scotland, they have youngsters coming through, a couple from Rosenborg in particular. I've changed since I came to Brann. I now play as a striker, whereas a lot of the time at Aberdeen I was at left midfield. I have shown I can score goals."

Norway also have someone who knows what it is like to be at Hampden. Vidar Riseth is now back at Rosenborg playing in the Champions' League, but when he played with Celtic, he scored in their Scottish League Cup final success there in 1999-2000 - against Winters's Aberdeen side.

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