Tommy Burns has backed plans by Scotland's manager, Berti Vogts, to make players represent their country for free, and insists he would have been happy to dip into his own pocket for the privilege.
Vogts is keen to introduce a new arrangement before the World Cup qualifying campaign which would see nothing paid out unless the finals were reached. Then the squad would qualify for lucrative lump sums and Burns, Vogts' assistant manager and a former Scotland international, was all for the scheme.
He said: "I would have played for nothing with no problems whatsoever. I would have played every game for Scotland for nothing. Looking back, I would probably have paid them to play."
Burns was also confident that today's millionaire players would agree to the proposal. He said: "I think the biggest majority of this squad would be of a similar frame of mind, I have no doubts about that. They are all well-paid guys at their clubs and I think they see this as a huge bonus for them and that is the way it should be."
The Scots' first game of 2004 is an all-British affair at Wales' Millennium Stadium tomorrow night. Vogts is in a position to hand out four debuts, with the goalkeeper Neil Alexander and the newcomers Paul Gallagher, Gary Teale and Graeme Murty all hoping to be given their chance.
Murty is a player Burns already knows well as he had bought him when he was manager of Reading. He said: "I paid quite a lot of money for him, in fact a great deal of money for a Second Division club, but Graeme had a lot of injury problems in the time I was there.
"Since then he has come on in leaps and bounds under Alan Pardew and does tremendously well for them. He helped them get promotion and has been an ever-present in the last three or four years.
"He did very well in the Future Team game against Turkey, so it will be interesting to see if he does step up a level. He's a good age, very experienced and won't be fazed by it. He has certainly got a lot to offer."
Alexander, who plays his club football for Cardiff, has been an unused member of many squads, and Burns hinted he might get the nod in his adopted city. He said: "Patience is certainly a virtue in this squad. I would think he is in the manager's plans."
In any case, with a World Cup qualifying campaign just a few months away, Vogts is keen to take a look at all positions. Burns said: "I don't think the manager is 100 per cent in his mind regarding the whole set up. There are one or two positions he is unsure of. In general he probably wants to look at Stephen Pearson, Darren Fletcher and James McFadden guys like that."
Once again the midfielder Colin Cameron has reported for international duty less than 100 per cent fit, but Burns was confident the Wolves man would still be available. He said: "He is a very important player for us, very much an unsung hero. He is the type of player that when he is not there you certainly miss him.
"He is a dogged, determined wee guy who wants to be part of it and that is exactly the sort of leadership quality we are looking for."
The Scots have to regroup after suffering the 6-0 thrashing in the Netherlands in November which ended their Euro 2004 dreams at the play-off stage. That result had been a hammer blow, especially as Vogts' side had won the first leg at Hampden Park thanks to a McFadden goal.
Burns said: "What we have to stress to them is that they actually did really well to get through to the play-offs to meet Holland."
The Welsh also missed out in the play-offs, being pipped by Russia in a much closer contest and Burns believed the two nations were in a similar position. He said: "There was a certain time when I think everybody thought Wales were going to qualify. They had desperately bad luck in some games and I think they are very similar to ourselves in a lot of ways in that they are trying to get straight back in and show people they have a credible place in the international game.
"The quality they have got now seems to be coming together for them so I think Wales are in for some good times, most definitely."
The defender Paul Ritchie, who is back in the Scotland picture after a four-year absence, also backed Vogts' incentive scheme plans. He said: "From a personal point of view I just think it is an honour to play for your country.
"The way the manager is talking about it I think it is a fantastic idea. It gives the boys ambition as professional footballers want to play at the highest level.
"You want to play in the European Championships, you want to play in the World Cup and I think that if there is a bonus at the end of that then fine, but for the qualification everyone should just want to play for their country."
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