Scotland Euro 2021 Squad Prediction 1.0
Updated: Mar 9, 2021
So yes, I do realise we still have a few more months of football to be played before Steve Clarke will pick his 23-man squad for the European Championships this summer, but I couldn’t resist speculating about what that squad could look like.
There are relatively few certainties leading into the tournament. There are more Scottish players contributing and thriving in top-half teams in the English Premier League than at any other point in recent memory, and some great performers in the Scottish Premiership creating a real battle to make the squad. It will be interesting to see whether Steve Clarke will prefer to stick with players who got the team this far, or if the performances of some players who haven’t been involved in recent times will see any dark horses make the final squad.
I’ll go through the squad by position, with my selection being based on the assumption that Clarke will stick with the formation used towards the end of the qualifying campaign. It is also being assumed that Andy Robertson will remain as captain in the finals, with no reason to suggest this will suddenly change. I will end each section by detailing my selections, the reserve most likely to come into the squad in case of injuries etc, and those unlucky to miss out.
Following his penalty shootout heroics against Israel and Serbia, it is highly likely that David Marshall will start in goals barring injury or dramatic loss of form. I think that the lure of finally playing at a major tournament could bring Allan McGregor back into the international fold, off the back of what has been a remarkable defensive season at Rangers. The third spot is most definitely up for grabs, with Craig Gordon probably the main candidate at the time of writing. However, Scott Bain has established himself as Celtic’s first choice between the sticks, and a solid end to the season could see him take the spot. Lack of game time for Jon McLaughlin in the second half of the season will probably rule him out, despite his strong start. What’s certain is that Scotland will enter the tournament boasting a selection of goalkeepers with plenty of experience.
Selected: David Marshall (Derby County), Allan McGregor (Rangers), Scott Bain (Celtic)
Reserve: Craig Gordon (Heart of Midlothian)
Unlucky to miss out: Jon McLaughlin (Rangers)
Captain Andy Robertson is obviously a lock at left back, with Kieran Tierney able to provide cover in that position if necessary. It is unlikely Clarke will use a spot on Greg Taylor or Aaron Hickey to provide more cover behind that, with the majority of the defensive places used to provide options at the three centre back spots. Declan Gallagher is likely to start, with Scott McKenna and Liam Cooper firmly established in Clarke’s plans as well. Of course, Scott McTominay remains an option in defence, but his current form warrants serious consideration for a starting midfield spot. He will be included in the midfielders section. Unfortunately John Souttar, David Bates and Craig Halkett haven’t pushed on from their early promise, which could open the door for the return of an experienced head in the form of Grant Hanley. Hanley captains Norwich City and has been in terrific form this season, so this leadership allied with his experience could make him a useful player to take to the tournament. Andrew Considine and Jack Hendry are both performing well for their respective club sides but are unlikely to make the squad here. At right back, Stephen O’Donnell is the incumbent and has performed well in a poor Motherwell side this season. He is a firm favourite of Clarke’s and is very likely to go. The other player used in the right wing back role recently is Liam Palmer, who will likely take his place in the squad alongside O’Donnell despite not overly impressing.
Selected: Andy Robertson (Liverpool), Kieran Tierney (Arsenal), Declan Gallagher (Motherwell), Scott McKenna (Nottingham Forest), Liam Cooper (Leeds United), Grant Hanley (Norwich City), Stephen O’Donnell (Motherwell), Liam Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday)
Reserve: Aaron Hickey (Bologna)
Unlucky to miss out: Greg Taylor (Celtic), Andrew Considine (Aberdeen)
One of the big questions leading up to the tournament is where Steve Clarke will play Scott McTominay. The Manchester United star has come on leaps and bounds this season, so much so that Clarke recently conceded in a press conference that he has to seriously consider moving McTominay back into his natural position. Alongside him will be John McGinn and Callum McGregor for sure, with Ryan Jack also a good bet to make the squad. Stuart Armstrong’s form for Southampton should see him safely make the squad, but beyond this it gets more difficult to predict. Kenny McLean has played a major role in qualification, but may miss out for an extra defender or striker due to McGregor and Jack being ahead of him in the pecking order for his role. However, I would take him as extra midfield cover to ensure fresh legs are available in each game. John Fleck may miss out, while Ryan Christie will face a battle throughout the rest of the season to hold off competition from youngsters such as David Turnbull, Billy Gilmour and Lewis Ferguson. Alongside these hardworking and reliable players, the x-factor will be supplied by Ryan Fraser and James Forrest, provided he returns from injury and gets a run of games to finish the season at Celtic.
Selected: Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Callum McGregor (Celtic), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Ryan Jack (Rangers), Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), Ryan Christie (Celtic), James Forrest (Celtic), Ryan Fraser (Newcastle United), Kenny McLean (Norwich City)
Reserve: David Turnbull (Celtic)
Unlucky to miss out: Billy Gilmour (Chelsea), John Fleck (Sheffield United)
Lyndon Dykes has earned the starting role for his own with physical and hardworking performances in the past year. The remaining spots for attackers will divide opinion, with a whole host of left-field suggestions being thrown around. I will attempt to fill my remaining three spots as practically as possible, taking into account the various situations these players would be used in. Oli McBurnie has been the second choice striker for a couple of years, but he has shown little in his international outings or Sheffield United performances to warrant a space in the squad. Teammate Oliver Burke is not a natural finisher, but his pace, physicality and work ethic make him an ideal substitute to bring off the bench and cause opposing defences problems. The final spot in the squad is particularly tough, with Kevin Nisbet and Lawrence Shankland providing two young goal scoring options. However, my final option off the bench for Scotland would be Leigh Griffiths. While he is not getting as regular game time at Celtic as in previous years, he remains the most natural finisher available to Steve Clarke and has a track record of scoring big goals late on in matches. These three players would be fighting for the one main striker’s position, with Forrest or Fraser likely to start in a supporting role.
Selected: Lyndon Dykes (Queen’s Park Rangers), Leigh Griffiths (Celtic), Oliver Burke (Sheffield United)
Reserve: Callum Paterson (Sheffield Wednesday)
Unlucky to miss out: Kevin Nisbet (Hibernian), Lawrence Shankland (Dundee United), Oliver McBurnie (Sheffield United)
So these are my selections, comment with your suggestions and thoughts on my choices and share with family and friends to start your own debate on the matter!