Just over three years ago, right around the time that Scotland were failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, I took a look at two groups of Scottish international players (one half already capped, the other half still at the U21 level) that I thought might have the potential to improve Scotland’s chances of qualifying for
EURO 2016 the 2018 World Cup. Enough time has passed now and enough has changed- apart from not qualifying for major tournaments!- in Scottish football that I thought it might be well to take a look at those two groups of players and see how they’ve gotten on both domestically and internationally since the fall of 2012. I’ll deal with the capped players today and the (mostly) former U21 players tomorrow.
It might also be well to start by looking back at the criteria I established at the time for this first group.
In short, I was putting together a “U25” that would be between the ages of 26-32 when the World Cup took place in Russia in 2018. Below you’ll see where the player was then and where he is now (in red).
Age: 22 Midfielder, Aston Villa & Scotland (11)
Bannan, now 26, has only managed to add nine caps to his total in the last three years, has left Aston Villa for Crystal Palace (where he was subsequently loaned out to Bolton Wanderers), and now finds himself on a one year contract with Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship. Given he’s among the younger players on this list there’s probably still time for one more go with the national team.
Age: 25 Midfielder, Derby County & Scotland (1)
Now 29, Bryson is still a mainstay for Derby County, but he has only been capped a single time since 2012. Bryson seems unlikely to play any part in the Scotland squad going forward.
Age: 25 Defender, Huddersfield Town & Scotland (2)
29 year old Dixon has only picked up one additional cap as well since making the original list in 2012. He has also returned to last place (and fading from view, to be honest) Dundee United in the Scottish Premiership. Not likely to add to his total in the future.
Age: 25 Midfielder, West Browich Albion & Scotland (8)
Now 28, Dorrans has moved From WBA to Norwich City-first on loan, then permanently- and has added four caps to his total since 2012. If Dorrans can establish himself as a first choice player at Norwich- which he’s on the way towards doing- he may still catch Gordon Strachan’s eye, even if Norwich are inevitably relegated at the end of the season.
Age: 25 Forward, Sunderland & Scotland (9)
Fletcher, now 28, has done well over the last few years, increasing his cap total from 9 to 25 and playing well domestically. That said, both his club and country managers would no doubt like to see him scoring more consistently and not just against weaker opponents- six of his eight goals have come in two matches against Gibraltar.
Age: 21 Midfielder, Celtic & Scotland (7)
Still only 24, Forrest has become a regular at Celtic (now with over 100 appearances for the club) but has only increased his cap total from 7 to 12 over the past three seasons. One wonders whether remaining at Celtic- even over a move to a Championship club- has been the right move for his international future?
Age: 23 Forward, Blackburn Rovers & Scotland (3)
Though only 26, Goodwillie’s international football career appears to be over and with good reason. While at Blackburn he was loaned out three different times before leaving the club and joining Aberdeen, and has produced goals at any of these places. In fact, since scoring 17 times for Dundee United in 2010-2011 his next best haul was 6 at Aberdeen last year. He’s added no additional caps since 2012.
Age: 20 Defender, Blackburn & Scotland (3)
Only recently 24, Hanley is one of the bright spots on this list. He remains an a stalwart in the Rovers back line and has established him as one for Scotland as well, picking up 16 additional caps since 2012. He appears to be a lock to make the side as qualification for World Cup 2018 begins.
Age: 25 Midfielder Wigan Athletic Scotland (8)
McArthur is another bright spot for Scotland. At 28 he remains a mainstay for Crystal Palace in the Premiership as well as for Gordon Strachan with the national team, having increased his caps to 22 over the past three seasons. He too seems certain to be part of Scotland’s plans as the qualification stages begin.
Age: 22 Forward Blackburn Rovers Scotland (4)
One wonders why Rhodes does not see more minutes with the national team? While he has added to his cap total (now 13) the 25 year old remains one of the most dangerous strikers in the Championship, having scored 81 times in 148 matches for Rovers after scoring 73 times for Huddersfield Town in 124 matches.
Age: 25 Midfielder Norwich City Scotland (8)
While Snodgrass, 28, has managed to add seven caps to his total since 2012 he has also be out injured for almost half the time since then so it’s difficult to assess his future at this point. Now at Hull City in the Championship Snodgrass finally returned to the field on December 1.
Age: 20 Defender Liverpool Scotland (5)
Still not 24 until after Christmas, Wilson is the youngest player in the group and his case may be the most curious. After spending most of his time at Liverpool out on loan he then had three very successful seasons with Hearts, but somehow managed to stay out of the national team picture before moving on to Rangers, where he began his career. What his future holds is hard to say.
Finally, I closed my initial list by taking a look at two players who were currently on the fringes of the full national team, each having a single cap as a “B International.” Now 27 year old Scott Arfield of Burnley has compiled over 300 league appearances but has made no gains in terms of the national team, still having only his singe “B” cap. The other was Leigh Griffiths, now 25 years old. Griffiths has moved from Wolves to Hibernian (on loan) and now to Celtic. At the latter two he has scored 65 goals in 118 league appearances and this success has led to six caps with the full national team.
Well, that’s some pretty tough stuff. Let’s hope that those on the U21 list have faired a bit better!