The Derby County winger Gary Teale was yesterday recalled to the Scotland squad for the World Cup qualifying double-header against the Netherlands and Iceland. The 30-year-old earns his first call-up since George Burley's initial game in charge against Croatia almost exactly a year ago.
Teale was a substitute in the 1-1 draw at Hampden but was not picked in any of Burley's subsequent squads. His inclusion was the only surprise in a 26-man party, which includes the fit-again Tottenham full-back Alan Hutton, who has not played a first-team game since Scotland's friendly against Argentina in November.
The Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon is also included, despite having played only one game for his club since November. Gordon lost his first-team place at the Stadium of Light after suffering an ankle injury and has been unable to reclaim it since.
As expected, the Birmingham striker James McFadden has been ruled out through injury, along with Celtic winger Shaun Maloney. Aberdeen forward Lee Miller also misses out through injury while Cardiff midfielder Gavin Rae, 31, keeps his place in the squad after his surprise call-up for last month's get-together at St Andrews.
Rae earned his first call-up for two years 12 months ago, coming off the bench against Croatia. He also started May's defeat in the Czech Republic and was in the squad for August's goalless draw with Northern Ireland, but was not included for any of Scotland's three Group Nine qualifiers so far.
Burley has led them to second place in the table ahead of the 28 March trip to Amsterdam and the 1 April match with Iceland at Hampden. He explained the importance of the double-header meant that he was keen to name a "settled" squad with few surprises. "There are no experiments," he said. "We have two very important World Cup games and it's a settled squad. The only new addition is Gary Teale. He has been in excellent form with Derby County this season and he has pushed his way back into the squad. He gives us pace, which we have maybe been lacking, and he is a natural wide player."
Burley is also hoping Hutton will be fit enough to take part in both games. The Tottenham full-back has been sidelined with a stress fracture of his foot but is set to make his comeback in a match for Spurs reserves on Monday. If he comes through that, Hutton will make the trip to Amsterdam. "He has been training for the last week and I spoke to Harry Redknapp and Alan," Burley said. "We've not closed the door – he's in the squad. We will keep our fingers crossed the [reserve] game goes well and then he will join us."
The Scotland manager also had words of encouragement for the Rangers youngster John Fleck. Burley had considered selecting the teenager, but the 17-year-old has been named in the Under-21 squad instead, bypassing the Under-19s. "It's progression," Burley said. "At 17, to get into the Under-21 squad is tremendous. His time will come." However, Burley was less forthcoming about whether Gordon was still his first-choice keeper.
"We'll get them together and then pick the team," Burley said. "Everyone in the squad has a chance of playing. We have three very good goalkeepers in the squad so I'm in a very fortunate position." The Celtic midfielder Barry Robson and Birmingham striker Garry O'Connor are also injured.
Burley believes Scott Brown has been the country's best player this season. "I've been a lover of Scott Brown since day one," Burley said. "I was amazed by some of the comments last season. Scott Brown is a top-class international player and he has been absolutely fantastic this season. And he's still young, still progressing. But the consistency he has shown and the maturity has been great. We are very strong in the midfield department. There is competition, which is encouraging because that's an area where you need to be strong. There have been a lot [of good players] but, in my opinion, Scott has been the best Scottish player this season.
"Since I've taken over Scotland, he has been outstanding. It's great that players are in good form, that's what we need. For them to show that hunger and perform. We have five big games and we need everybody working hard for each other.
"We will be up against teams like Holland, who have fabulous individual players, and we have to work hard to get the right results."
Scotland squad for World Cup qualifying Group Nine matches with Netherlands (28 March) and Iceland (1 April): Gordon (Sunderland), McGregor (Rangers), Marshall (Norwich); Alexander (Burnley), Barr (Falkirk), Berra (Wolves), Broadfoot (Rangers), Caldwell (Celtic), Hutton (Tottenham), McAllister (Bristol City), McManus (Celtic), Naysmith (Sheffield United), Weir (Rangers); Brown (Celtic), Commons (Derby), Ferguson (Rangers), Fletcher (Manchester United), Hartley (Celtic), Morrison (West Bromwich), Rae (Cardiff), Teale (Derby); Clarkson (Motherwell), Fletcher (Hibernian), Iwelumo (Wolves), McCormack (Cardiff), Miller (Rangers).
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies