Scotland short of options for Japan tour

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The Independent Online
Scotland will name a shadow squad today for a two-match tour to Japan arranged to bridge the gap between the end of the domestic season and a European Championship qualifier in the Faroe Islands on 7 June.

Craig Brown, the Scotland coach, has been hit by a list of call-offs and unavailability of his first-choice players which threatens to become an epidemic. Virtually a full squad could be ruled out of the trip, which involves games against Japan on 21 May in Toyama, and against Ecuador on 24 May.

Brown is likely to be without his captain, Gary McAllister, who is having an operation, the Celtic trio of John Collins, Paul McStay and Tom Boyd because of the Tennents Scottish Cup and the injured Rangers contingent of Ally McCoist, Andy Goram, David Robertson, Stuart McCall and Charlie Miller, all because of injuries.

Tranmere's Pat Nevin and Bolton's John McGinlay, who are both involved in the Endsleigh First Division play-offs can be added to that list and the Aberdeen striker Eoin Jess is doubtful because of a knee ligament injury.

Brown's task is further complicated by the promotion-relegation play-off which could involve Dundee United, Aberdeen or Hearts.

If Aberdeen are involved in the play-off on Sunday and next Thursday then Brown will be without Stewart McKimmie, Duncan Shearer and Stephen Wright. Indeed the latter may be excluded from the party as he is about to be married.

Brown is currently in Slovakia at a coaches conference and will leave his assistant, the Hibs manager Alex Miller, to make the squad announcement.

Hibs and Motherwell are likely to contribute largely to the squad with players such as Jim Leighton, Darren Jackson, Steve Woods, Rob McKinnon and Brian Martin expected to be involved.

Colin Hendry, Colin Calderwood and John Spencer should also be able to make the trip and there could even be places for fringe candidates such as Craig Burley, Paul Bernard and Scott Gemmill.

Celtic's John Collins, who has scored four goals in five games against Hibernians, is ready to haunt his old club again despite being having a chest infection. The midfielder, who moved to Celtic from Easter Road in 1990, did not find the net against Hibs until earlier this season but now he cannot break the habit.

He was linked yesterday with a move to Middlesbrough but Billy Stark, Celtic's assistant manger, said: "We've had no contact whatsoever, although someone of John's quality is always going to be linked with other clubs. But he has a year left on his contract here and is a key player for us.

Hibs must win to maintain their hopes of edging Motherwell out of second place and claiming Uefa Cup qualification. Six points from games against Celtic and away at Kilmarnock on Saturday would leave them hoping Hearts could collect something against Motherwell.

"We are relying on other people, but that is all we can do. We have to try and win our two games and hope that is enough to get us into Europe," Alex Miller, the Hibs manager, said.

Falkirk have made Saturday's match with Aberdeen at Brockville all-ticket. The visitors have been given around 6,000 tickets for the game which has a 13,200 crowd limit.

Depending on other results, Aberdeen could go down, find themselves in a promotion- relegation play-off or guarantee Premier Division safety.