Friendlies have never been popular among club managers, but Scotland's meeting with the Faroe Islands tonight is a game that has plumbed new depths of pointlessness. It is not only the managers who have railed against the game: nine of the original 20 players chosen by Craig Levein have withdrawn and another five turned down a request to replace them, while Murray Davidson, one of eight call-ups, now has an ankle injury.
Scotland's last game ended in defeat but the manner of their thrilling 3-2 loss to the world champions Spain last month offered hope of better times ahead. Levein insists this is a worthwhile next step, a game against a side ranked beneath Singapore and Ethiopia at a near-deserted Pittodrie with a third-string line-up.
"I won't listen to anyone saying that this isn't a worthwhile exercise," said Levein, the man who sent Scotland out to face the Czechs recently with no forwards. "I can say 100 per cent that this game will provide me with a lot of information. Let's not forget some of the best players that ever played international football got their chance in friendly matches. If we get through this game and I have discovered another two players then I will be delighted with that. Top-class international players have to start somewhere."
Levein initially chose not to select a number of regulars – there is not one Rangers player in the squad – and he left them alone yesterday in calling up the Blackpool left-back Stephen Crainey, whose last cap came six years ago, and added Craig Bryson of Kilmarnock, the Swindon full-back Phil Caddis and Motherwell's 19-year-old midfielder Steven Saunders to his lengthening list of first-timers.
There will be some interest in a debut for Barry Bannan, who has impressed for Aston Villa in recent weeks. The diminutive 20-year-old from Airdrie may well line up in the centre of midfield with Darren Fletcher, three days after being on opposing sides to the Manchester United player on domestic duty.
Levein said: "We are still going to have a fairly strong starting line-up and it's worth bearing in mind that a lot of the guys are playing in the Premier League in England. Look at Barry Bannan. I'm excited about working with him. It's an opportunity for me to have a look at [young players] and see how they handle the occasion." Or, perhaps, the lack of one.
Scotland squad (International friendly v Faroe Islands, Pittodrie, Aberdeen)
Goalkeepers C Bell (Kilmarnock), C Gordon (Sunderland); Defenders P Bardsley (Sunderland), S Caldwell (Wigan), D Wilson (Liverpool), S Crainey (Blackpool), G Kenneth (Dundee Utd), P Caddis (Swindon), S Saunders (Motherwell); Midfielders C Adam (Blackpool), B Bannan (Aston Villa), K Commons (Derby), D Fletcher (Man Utd), S Maloney (Celtic), B Robson (Middlesbrough), C Bryson (Kilmarnock), M Davidson (St Johnstone), J McArthur (Wigan); Forwards D Goodwillie (Dundee United), K Kyle (Hearts), J Mackie (QPR).