Mackie forces way back into the Scotland squad


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The Independent Football

The Scotland manager, Craig Levein, has recalled Russell Martin and Jamie Mackie for this month's friendly against Cyprus. Mackie's last appearance for the Scots was almost a year ago against the Faroe Islands, while Martin earned his only cap against Wales in the Carling Nations Cup in May.

Huddersfield Town striker Jordan Rhodes earned his first call-up for the game on 11 November, but Barry Bannan was dropped following his arrest on suspicion of drink-driving.

Celtic winger James Forrest has been left out of the squad but only to play for Scotland Under-21s in their European qualifier in Netherlands on 14 November. Levein confirmed Rhodes would join up with the Under-21s after the Cyprus trip.

Steven Naismith and Danny Swanson are unavailable through injury while Stephen Crainey misses out after withdrawing from the squad for the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Spain through injury.

Two players who won late call-ups to that squad, Lee Wallace and James McArthur, both retain their place but Middlesbrough defender Stephen McManus has lost his.

There is still no place for in-form Leeds striker Ross McCormack while stand-in Celtic captain Charlie Mulgrew has not forced his way in.

Oldham-born Rhodes, who qualifies for Scotland through the five-year schooling rule, is in the squad after hitting 14 goals in six games before the weekend, five of them in two qualifiers for Billy Stark's Scotland Under-21s.

Such form reportedly attracted interest from England, but Levein insists that was not pivotal in his inclusion. "That isn't the primary concern," Levein said. "I want to reward him for how he has been playing. He has been part of Billy's squad for quite a while. Scotland have been quick to recognise his abilities. I'm very confident he considers himself part of the group."

Mackie has recently returned for Queen's Park Rangers from a broken leg and Levein was eager to get him back involved.

"I'm a big fan of Jamie Mackie," he said. "The Tartan Army haven't had the opportunity to see as much of him as I have.

"He has had to battle very hard to get back from a very serious injury. In the minutes he has played since he has come back, he has been excellent.

"He made a big improvement in the QPR team when he came on at half-time against Tottenham on Sunday."

Martin was last involved with Scotland as a right-back, making his only appearance to date off the bench in the Carling Nations Cup win over Wales in May.

But he has recently been playing in central defence during Norwich's excellent start to life in the Premier League. "Russell has been included in the squad before but I'd like to get to know him a little bit better and see him working in training," Levein said.

"He is playing week in, week out in the Premiership at centre-back and doing a very good job so I think he deserves an opportunity.

"I do feel one of the areas I have to get some consistency is along the back line, so there is every chance I will have the same back four starting the match, but I will look to give Russell game time for sure."

Bannan was excluded following his suspension by Aston Villa after he was arrested following a motorway crash, although the Midlands club confirmed the midfielder had returned to training moments after Levein spoke at a media conference yesterday morning.

Levein said: "As the national team manager you are representing your country and I feel that there are certain situations where it's better just to let it resolve itself and Barry will be back in the group after that."

Levein also confirmed there had been "no change" in the situation with Wolves striker Steven Fletcher, who has not contacted the manager since asking not to be considered for the squad to face Northern Ireland in February.

Meanwhile, Under-17s coach Ricky Sbragia will join Levein's backroom team in Cyprus after assistant Peter Houston revealed he would miss the trip to concentrate on turning round Dundee United.

The Wales Under-21 manager, Brian Flynn, has named five Swansea players in his 18-man squad for the 2013 European Championship Group Three qualifier against Armenia in Yerevan in two weeks' time. Captain Jazz Richards, who last week signed a new contract at the Liberty Stadium, is joined by Swansea team-mates Daniel Alfei, Joe Walsh, Lee Lucas and David Cornell, who is on loan at Hereford. Wales are fourth in the standings following a 1-0 home defeat to group leaders Czech Republic last time out.

While Flynn's men have played a game more than the Czechs and Armenia, they are just one point off the top of the group and a win at the Hanrapetakan Stadium would put them back in contention for a place in the finals.

Flynn has also included Colchester defender Tom Bender on his standby list following the 18-year-old's recovery from the severe concussion he suffered while playing for Accrington against Tranmere in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy last month.

Crystal Palace's Jonathan Williams, 18, is included in the Under-21 squad after being called into the senior squad as injury cover for the games against Switzerland and Bulgaria.