Scotland's door still open for Ferguson

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The Independent Online
PHIL SHAW

Although he languishes in prison, Scotland have not locked the door on Duncan Ferguson. After naming his squad for the final European Championship qualifying fixture against San Marino yesterday, Craig Brown stressed that the birdman of Barlinnie was still in his thoughts.

The pigeon-fancying Everton forward, jailed for head-butting an opponent, has not played for Scotland this year. But by suggesting there was still hope for him, and intimating that Eoin Jess would partner Scott Booth against Group Eight's bottom-placed team at Hampden Park a week tomorrow, Brown effectively conceded that he is no closer to a settled attacking duo.

The Scotland manager started the campaign with Duncan Shearer and Andy Walker as his front two. Since then, he has tried permutations involving Ferguson, John McGinlay, Darren Jackson, John Robertson, Ally McCoist, John Spencer and Booth, without being satisfied by the chemistry.

Only Booth, the Premier Division's top scorer with eight goals, has done enough to be a certainty for the finals if, as anticipated, the Scots' place is confirmed against San Marino's part-timers and amateurs. It is an indication of Brown's increasingly pressing need to find a suitable foil that he has now brought in Jess.

Eight previous caps failed to coax a goal from the 24-year-old Aberdeen player. Moreover, Jess now plays his club football in midfield, a department where Scotland's first-choice quartet is firmly established.

"I've told Eoin he has a far higher chance of playing up front," Brown said. "If he proves himself in this game and keeps his form throughout the season, the chance is there for him and Booth to prove they're our main strikers."

Brown added, however, that he had not forgotten the likes of Ferguson, McCoist and Kevin Gallacher, who has been troubled by injuries at Blackburn. As many as 16 of the 22-strong pool would be in his 20 for England, he said, although he would also be looking for younger players to break into the reckoning for the World Cup qualifiers which start next autumn.

SCOTLAND SQUAD (European Championship Group Eight v San Marino, Hampden Park, 15 November): Booth (Aberdeen), Boyd (Celtic), Burley (Chelsea), Calderwood (Tottenham Hotspur), Collins (Celtic), Gemmill (Nottingham Forest), Hendry (Blackburn Rovers), Jackson (Hibernian), Jess (Aberdeen), Leighton (Hibernian), McAllister (Leeds United), McCall (Rangers), McCoist (Rangers), McGinlay (Bolton Wanderers), McKimmie (Aberdeen), T McKinlay (Celtic), B McKinlay (Blackburn Rovers), McLaren (Rangers), McStay (Celtic), Nevin (Tranmere Rovers), Robertson (Heart of Midlothian), Walker (Partick Thistle).

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