Goram must sit and wait

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The Independent Online
Craig Brown, wrestling with a quandary over who should be Scotland's first-choice goalkeeper at Euro 96, had the more pressing problem of which candidate to play against the United States at New Britain tomorrow simplified by an injury to Andy Goram.

The Rangers keeper, who has played just half a match for Scotland in the past 18 months, suffered a recurrence of a hip strain in the Scottish Cup final. He has been restricted to light training in America, leaving Brown no choice other than to retain Jim Leighton.

That is not to say that the Hibernian veteran, 38 in July and winning his 74th cap, would not have held his place for the finals, but the Scotland manager had been keen to ease Goram, the domestic game's outstanding custodian, back into his side.

"Andy could play at a pinch if it was a crunch match, but he might aggravate it," Brown said. "We even had to leave him behind when we went to see Rod Stewart in New York because sitting on the bus made his leg twinge. But he'll definitely start against Colombia in Miami on Wednesday."

The match is being staged at the 13,000-capacity Veterans' Stadium, part of a complex that is also home to the Hardware City Rock Cats baseball team. For all the apparent media apathy, Brown anticipates that the US will treat the fixture as anything but friendly.

The nucleus of the American side who reached the second phase at the last World Cup remains intact. John Harkes, the failed Celtic trialist who went on to serve Sheffield Wednesday and Derby with distinction, will captain them against the country of his father's birth.

Alexi Lalas also plays, along with the Queen's Park Rangers keeper Jurgen Sommer, with Steve Pittman, once of East Fife, Dundee and Partick Thistle, in line for a defensive role. Jovan Kirovski, a 20-year-old Manchester United striker, is likely to be among the substitutes.

"We beat them 1-0 at Denver before Euro 92, but they're a better team now," Brown said. "I worked for Sky at the Copa America in Uruguay last year and saw them beat Argentina 3-0 and lose only 1-0 to Brazil in a very even game. They're tactically very flexible so it's certainly not the easy game it might have been 15 years ago."

The desire to experiment, particularly in pursuit of the elusive striking partnership, may persuade Brown to leave Gary McAllister out of his starting line-up. The Leeds captain has nothing to prove to the Scotland management. In that event, Colin Hendry would captain the national team for the first time.