Unsettled Hendry dropped by Scotland for first time

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Colin Hendry's season lurches from bad to worse. Dropped and marginalised by Coventry City, Scotland's human claymore and captain was yesterday omitted from the national side for the first time ahead of tonight's Hampden Park friendly against Australia.

Colin Hendry's season lurches from bad to worse. Dropped and marginalised by Coventry City, Scotland's human claymore and captain was yesterday omitted from the national side for the first time ahead of tonight's Hampden Park friendly against Australia.

Craig Brown, the Scotland manager, took what he described as "a hard decision" to prefer Brian O'Neil, the ball-playing centre-back newly signed by Derby County from German football, in view of Hendry's lack of competitive action. Since leading the Scots to four points in the World Cup qualifiers in San Marino and Croatia last month, Hendry has made a solitary appearance for Coventry's reserves and was the only unused outfield substitute at Liverpool on Sunday.

The Coventry manager, Gordon Strachan, left him out after the opening-day defeat by Middlesbrough, since when he has not started a Premiership game. Hendry has been linked with Derby, Everton, Bradford City, Preston and Bolton without finalising a move, and remains unsettled, unhappy and seemingly unwanted at Highfield Road.

Asked whether Hendry's absence might signal the end of his international career after seven years and 48 caps, Brown said grimly: "I hope not." The player had been disappointed, he explained, but, while his fitness continued to impress in training, he needed to resolve the impasse with his club if he was not to become peripheral to the Scottish campaign to reach Japan and South Korea in 2002.

"I wouldn't hesitate to bring him in if we lost a couple of players," said Brown. "But if he sits it out [at Coventry] until the World Cup games resume next March, there's no way he will be playing against Belgium. In those circumstances, we couldn't begin to put him in."

Hendry's misfortune not only means that Tom Boyd is likely to take over the captaincy but also opens the door for O'Neil. It is proving an eventful week for the former Celtic and Aberdeen player, 28, who left Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga on Monday for Derby in exchange for Stefan Schnoor. A member of Brown's successful youth international team in 1989, O'Neil was first capped against Australia, coincidentally, four years ago.

"I used him as a midfielder that night," recalled Brown, "though he is more suited to the role he's in now. He's an excellent marker and played brilliantly against [Robbie] Keane and [Niall] Quinn in Dublin last spring."

Echoing the injured Celtic midfielder Paul Lambert, a Champions' League winner with Borussia Dortmund, O'Neil cited the importance of concentration as the most important thing he learned with Wolfsburg. "It's particularly important," he said, "because over there you are playing against one man and if he scores it's your fault."

Preventing Mark Viduka finding the net has proved beyond many English defences lately, yet doubt persists over whether an Australian side already deprived of Mark Bosnich and Harry Kewell will be able to call on the Leeds United striker. Having been ruled out by his club manager, David O'Leary, after sustaining an ankle injury at Chelsea on Sunday, Viduka arrived at the Socceroos' camp declaring his availability.

However, the Australian coach, Frank Farina, said yesterday: "Mark didn't train this morning. There's swelling round his ankle, so we'll give him another 24 hours. I've spoken to David O'Leary and Leeds' medical staff, and I understand their concern because he has been scoring lots of goals. But he tells me he wants to play. I'll leave it to the player and my medical people. If they say he can't play, he won't."

Meanwhile, Viduka's club-mate Dominic Matteo makes his Scotland debut, the Dumfries-born utility player having twice being picked for England squads without appearing.

SCOTLAND (3-4-3; probable): Sullivan (Tottenham); Boyd (Celtic), Elliott (Leicester), O'Neil (Derby); Cameron (Hearts), Burley (Derby), Ferguson (Rangers), Matteo (Leeds); Dickov (Manchester City), Hutchison (Sunderland), McCann (Rangers).

AUSTRALIA (4-4-2; probable): Schwarzer (Middlesbrough); Muscat (Wolves), Laybutt (Feyenoord), Murphy (Sheffield United), Tiatto (Manchester City); Wehrman (Perth Glory), Okon (Middlesbrough), Skoko (Genk), Lazaridis (Birmingham); Agostino (TSV 1860 Munich), Viduka (Leeds).

Comments