Scotland's state of readiness undermined by injuries

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The Independent Online
Just as a trip to see Rod Stewart in New York tonight signals the end of the winding-down period for Scotland's footballers after the rigours of the domestic season, so Sunday's date with Ernie Stewart (no relation) and the rest of the United States side, marks the beginning of the build- up to Euro 96.

The Scottish squad, who have collaborated with old Tartan Tonsils to record "Purple Heather" (formerly known as "Wild Mountain Thyme") as their contribution to the musical massacre that traditionally precedes such tournaments, will attend his show at Madison Square Garden before finalising preparations to face the Americans.

The players showed no ill-effects in training yesterday from their arduous Atlantic crossing - after landing in New York six hours behind schedule, there was a long haul through rush-hour traffic to New England - though the condition of several will come under scrutiny in today's practice. Principal among them is likely to be Ally McCoist, who missed Saturday's Scottish Cup final with a calf injury.

Craig Brown, the Scotland manager, wants to see how the Rangers striker responds to cardiovascular treatment before making his selection. "There's an outside chance Ally will be fit for Sunday," he said. "But the important thing is that he's ready for England."

Colin Calderwood is another whose progress is being closely monitored. Because of injury, the Tottenham defender has not started a competitive game for two months. Brown admitted he was likely to play a full match against both the US at New Britain and Colombia in Miami next Wednesday.

All 11 players not in Sunday's starting line-up will be on the bench, Brown having agreed with the American coach, Steve Sampson, that any five can come on. Rather than fielding his first-choice team, he will use the fixtures to study the sharpness of fringe candidates like Blackburn's Billy McKinlay and Coventry's Eoin Jess.

Brown may also take the opportunity to deploy Celtic's Tom Boyd, whom he has tended to see as a left-sided wing-back, in central defence. In the event of Alan McLaren failing to recover from knee surgery, which he undergoes in Glasgow today, Boyd is expected to move alongside Calderwood and Colin Hendry in a three-man unit. But with the Dutch, Swiss and English all certain to have spies in the stand, Brown, like Rod Stewart, did not want to talk about it.