Hendry's injury keeps Scotland waiting

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Football

PHIL SHAW

Craig Brown may not be in the business of bearing grudges, as he put it during the weekend song and dance over Andy Goram, but the manner of December's 1-0 defeat in Greece still rankles the Scotland manager.

He will therefore be particularly disappointed should Colin Hendry fail to recover from a groin injury in time for tonight's return match in Group Eight of the European Championship at Hampden Park. Blackburn's human claymore, desperate to avenge the dubious penalty he conceded in Athens, is rated a "major doubt" by Brown.

As an inspirational defender who is also a threat at set pieces, Hendry would be sorely missed. Yet Brown has become inured to such setbacks, and by last night had contingency plans in hand at the squad's base on the Ayrshire coast.

Two options with which he was toying involved switching one or other of his full backs, Stewart McKimmie and Tom Boyd, to the central roles they often occupy for their clubs. The most likely scenario, however, has Motherwell's Brian Martin coming in for Hendry.

Martin, 32, is the definitive late developer. As a teenager he was released by Albion Rovers and Stenhousemuir. Hibernian would not stump up the pounds 1,000 fee their then manager wanted to pay his junior club, Shotts, and it was not until May that the player mysteriously nicknamed "Buff" won his first cap.

Brown watched him in a Uefa Cup match against Finnish opposition last week, when Martin's lack of pace was exposed, but by picking him he could leave the rest of his defence intact.

With Goram not "mentally attuned", there is a Hampden reprise for Jim Leighton, who last represented Scotland at the national stadium five years ago; and in the absence of Duncan Ferguson, the goalkeeper's club-mate, Darren Jackson, will partner Duncan Shearer, or Alan Shearer as Ceefax called the Aberdeen striker in a fit of wishful thinking yesterday.

Scotland have received confirmation that three substitutes, not necessarily including a keeper, will be allowed. Brown has already hinted that he may use Ally McCoist, back on the international scene after more than two years, in that capacity. Billy McKinlay's shooting ability means the Dundee United midfielder is likely to be similarly deployed.

Victory would put Scotland in a strong position to qualify, with their remaining games against Finland and San Marino both at home.

The Greeks, reportedly on pounds 15,000 a man to win in Glasgow, are two points behind their hosts with a match in hand, but have lost their last two and must still visit Russia.

Finland, who receive the Russians tonight, lead the section but close with trips to Moscow and Hampden.

Brown knows that Scotland's fate is in their own hands. "We want to be positive and play in their half," he said. "We did it in Finland, in the first half in Russia, and in Greece until they scored and we became ragged.

"Despite all our problems, I'm confident we can win. We don't want a hard luck story. Though the Greeks will be thinking that they've got to win this one, we've got huge commitment. The players really feel that what's at stake is too important to let it slip away."

SCOTLAND (probable) (5-3-2): Leighton (Hibernian); McKimmie (Aberdeen), McLaren (Rangers), Martin (Motherwell), Calderwood (Tottenham), Boyd (Celtic); McCall (Rangers), McAllister (Leeds), (capt), Collins (Celtic); Jackson (Hibernian), Shearer (Aberdeen).

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