Okay, since it's only two days till Steve Clarke announces his Euro 2021 squad, maybe it isn't too early for me to speculate anymore? So here's who I think - not necessarily who the boss thinks - will be the twenty-six players who will wear the Scotland shirt at a major tournament for the first time since France '98.
It'll be interesting to see who benefits from the decision to increase the squad size from twenty-three, given that the three fortunate so-and-so's are virtually certain not to play. Do you just pick the next three men up? Reward the loyalty of longstanding squad members? Bring along talented youngsters for experience? Concentrate on players who will help with training and/or squad morale?
We'll find out soon enough. Here's who I'd pick though. And I'm the sort of person who definitely wishes Ally McCoist had come along to the 1998 World Cup...
GOALKEEPERS: DAVID MARSHALL, CRAIG GORDON, JON MCLAUGHLIN
Missing out: Liam Kelly, Scott Bain
Kelly has played very well in recent months for Motherwell, but I don't see him displacing McLaughlin who is established as the third choice keeper (a role which at major tournaments often seems to mainly involve cheerleading). The more interesting question is whether Marshall or Gordon will be in goal for the opening game.
FULL-BACKS: ANDREW ROBERTSON, KIERAN TIERNEY, STEPHEN O'DONNELL, NATHAN PATTERSON
Missing out: Greg Taylor, Liam Palmer
Taylor is a Clarke favourite going back to Kilmarnock days but it's hard to see a situation in which he plays - if Robertson gets hurt then Tierney will surely be moved over from left centre-back. Therefore I'd leave the Celtic defender behind. O'Donnell is surely still the first choice on the right but remains the weakest link in the starting XI. Not only is Patterson worthy of consideration as a star of the future who might benefit from the experience but - notwithstanding the fact he's played so few games for Rangers - he is frankly already a better player than O'Donnell and thrusting him straight into the lineup would be a brave decision, not a reckless one. However, no-one would be surprised if the manager plumped for solid squad member Palmer instead.
CENTRE-BACKS: GRANT HANLEY, SCOTT MCKENNA, LIAM COOPER, JACK HENDRY, ANDREW CONSIDINE
Missing out: Declan Gallagher
The formula for the back three very much appears to be *A left-footed player*-*A big bruiser who wins all the headers*-*A technically-gifted player who can bring the ball out from the back*. Tierney is the undisputed first choice for the left sided position, and Hanley now looks like the clear frontrunner for the middle role. If Scott McTominay might have to be shoehorned into the injury-hit midfield which would mean a starting slot for Hendry. Cooper is the obvious left-footed backup, and McKenna will push Hanley hard. Given Gallagher is another 'wins all the headers' player, I'm not sure there's a good reason to take him as well; you could say the same about Considine who would just be another left foot, but the Aberdeen veteran is clearly good for morale and could justify inclusion based only on that.
MIDFIELDERS: SCOTT MCTOMINAY, CALLUM MCGREGOR, JOHN MCGINN, JOHN FLECK, DAVID TURNBULL, BILLY GILMOUR
Injured: Ryan Jack, Kenny McLean
Jack would have started against the Czechs if fit; in his absence, there's a good chance McLean would have started against the Czechs if fit. So FFS. It'll be hard for Clarke to avoid moving McTominay into the anchor role now, with McGregor and McGinn the other likely starters. The loss of Jack and McLean does surely mean a spot opens up for Turnbull who has certainly earned it with his play for Celtic; he would be an interesting option off the bench with his driving forward runs and set-piece quality. Fleck offers plenty of experience as a 'six' or an 'eight'. And I'd love it if space was found for Gilmour who is such an exciting prospect; he'd be another youngster along for the ride rather than a likely contributor.
ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS/WINGERS: STUART ARMSTRONG, RYAN CHRISTIE, RYAN FRASER, JAMES FORREST
Missing out: Ryan Gauld, Johnny Russell, Lewis Morgan
These four should be a shoo-in if fit; you could make arguments for any of them to start and I'd expect all to contribute. Gauld has by all accounts shone this season but he's still stuck on the outside looking in. Russell has been so enthusiastic for years about travelling from the US to join the squad but he's fallen out of the picture because of Covid restrictions and it's hard to see him getting back in at the expense of someone else. Morgan is another one who suffers for not being available for international duty for several months.
STRIKERS: CHE ADAMS, LYNDON DYKES, LEIGH GRIFFITHS, KEVIN NISBET
Injured: Oli McBurnie
Missing out: Oli Burke, Callum Paterson, Lawrence Shankland
After Adams and Dykes it's very much down to personal preference. McBurnie's broken foot probably makes the decision easier for Clarke as for all the Sheffield United man's physical gifts he has played like a donkey all season. I'd take Griffiths - who else would you rather came on for the last 15 minutes when we're chasing a goal? - but I'd understand if Clarke disagreed. Nisbet gets the nod for me because he's been in decent scoring form recently compared to Shankland. There's less need for a utility player like Paterson when the squad is so huge. I was surprisingly tempted to include Burke simply because he offers something different, but like McBurnie he's just been so poor for so long.
I'm going to say that I'm supremely confident about 21 of these guys - Patterson, Considine, Gilmour, Griffiths and Nisbet are 'on the bubble' for me. I look forward to finding out that I was spectacularly wrong...
Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.
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