Iwelumo ready to tower above the hurly-burly

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The Independent Online

Whether George Burley has found a lofty solution to the tall order ahead of him will not become apparent for a while but the Scotland manager insists that including Wolverhampton's towering striker Chris Iwelumo in his squad to face Norway at Hampden in next weekend's World Cup qualifier is no gimmick.

The 6ft 4in Scottish-Nigerian frontman, 30, who was born in Coatbridge and left St Mirren for Aarhus in Denmark early in his journeyman's career, has come close to wearing his senior national jersey twice before but has yet to be capped.

He nearly earned a call-up in 2002 under Berti Vogts but Stoke City's play-off campaign scuppered his chances of a place on tour to the Far East. Then last year, when Alex McLeish was the national manager, he played in a "B" game against the Republic of Ireland but McLeish was gone before any further promotion.

Now Burley appears to be on the verge of capping Iwelumo, arguing he has all the attributes to make an impression, namely height, power, plenty of match time in testing conditions, and goals. The forward, at his 10th club in 12 years, had scored eight goals in six games for Premier League-chasing Wolves before yesterday's trip to Swansea, and six goals in his previous four Championship matches.

"You are looking for players in form, players who are playing regularly," Burley said. "Chris comes into that category. I saw a lot of him when he played for Colchester in the Championship, where he did very well. This season, under Mick McCarthy, he has not only added being a target player, he has added goals.

"Chris is a target man. Maybe we didn't have that type in the squad. We'll look at it in training, we have a good build-up. We meet [tomorrow] before the game on Saturday, which is good preparation. So we will assess it, but he gives us a different option. Everybody in the squad has a chance. I'm not bringing people in if they have no chance."

Scotland got their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track by winning in Iceland last month, having lost their Group Nine opener in Macedonia. Winning their home games is imperative to their chances of reaching South Africa from a section that includes Holland.

If Euro 2008 was any marker, they stand a decent chance next weekend. They won five of six qualifiers for that tournament at Hampden in front of capacity crowds, all on Saturday afternoons. The Norway match is also a sellout.

The last time the sides met, in 2006 World Cup qualifying in Oslo three Septembers ago, Kenny Miller scored twice in a 2-1 win. Around that time, Scotland were ranked No 86 in the world, almost as low as they have ever been, while Norway were No 36. Norway have since been as low as No 56 and are up to No 34, while Scotland's renaissance has seen them storm to No 16.

Miller's form should make him a must-have player against Norway, but James McFadden has been doing well at Birmingham. Hibernian's Steven Fletcher, 21, provides an option, as does Rangers' Kris Boyd. Celtic's Shaun Maloney, nominally a forward, did enough against Iceland to make his pacy case as a wide midfielder.

Changes are inevitable. Burley's captain Stephen McManus is suspended after seeing red in Reykjavik, and the obvious replacement at centre-half, Rangers' Davie Weir, 38, is also an obvious stand-in captain. Kirk Broadfoot and Gary Naysmith should continue as full-backs despite the call-up of the left-sided Jamie McAllister of Bristol City, whom Burley knows from his Hearts days.

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