Why James got 'shirty'

Belarus Under-21 1 Scotland Under-21 0
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The Independent Online
Despite an encouraging international debut, Kevin James, the 6ft 7in Falkirk defender, conceded that his first game for Scotland's Under-21 side could be his last.

Making his bow in the defeat to the European Under-21 Championship Group Four leaders Belarus here on Saturday, James explained why he had no intention of exchanging shirts with the opposition at the final whistle.

"I enjoyed my international debut and it was a special moment to line up for the anthem and be representing Scotland," said James. "But I will be too old when the next campaign starts and you only have a couple of games left in this one. That's why when the Belarus opponent wanted to swap shirts I said 'no'. It has been a memorable end to the season for me, after helping Falkirk reach the Scottish Cup final."

James had words of empathy for his captain Gary Locke, of Hearts, who gifted Belarus victory when his 70th minute back-pass presented the substitute Nikolai Rynduk with a chance he gratefully accepted.

"Gary shouldn't take it hard on himself because we all make mistakes and sometimes you get away with it and sometimes you don't - that is football and it is a team game," said James.

In truth, Scotland would barely have deserved a draw and instead slumped to their fifth defeat in eight games which have seen them win only twice against Estonia.

Tommy Craig, their coach, has shuffled his pack so often that almost 40 players have been used since August but the clubs that feature in his squad list betray the lack of talent on offer.

Lower division outfits such as Clyde, Hamilton, Clydebank and Carlisle are represented while Rangers, Celtic and Dundee United - the top three in the Premier Division last week - had no players in the squad in Minsk. Scotland reached the last four in Europe at this level only a year ago but alarmingly the latest crop looks desperately short of quality.

Craig, who bemoaned the number of defensive errors during this campaign, highlighted as successes goalkeeper Roddy McKenzie, of Hearts, central defensive pair James and Darren Dods, of Hibernian, and Callum Davidson of St Johnstone. St Mirren's striker Ricky Gillie came off after 39 minutes suffering from a knee injury, the extent of which is still being assessed.

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