Lawrence Shankland’s Scotland career has been brought to a halt as the Dundee United striker pays the price for his team’s style of play.
Micky Mellon’s tactical approach has seen the front man drift further away from the areas where he’s at his most lethal to become almost a surrogate midfielder.
That’s the manager’s job: to employ the best and most profitable method of play for the players at his disposal, and a decent league finish this season may vindicate his stance.
It might leave the striker wondering though whether a move to a more attack-minded club would further his international ambitions.
Despite St Johnstone fans thinking that their top-performing players were also entitled to a call up, Scotland boss Steve Clarke has shown that the size of club needn’t be a bar to a cap.
However, strikers are a unique species and when they’re taken out of the environment in which they do their best work, their chance to impress is affected dramatically.
Shankland may be content to operate in a system which suits the team more than him, but after his cut from the international squad, he may have to give serious thought to whether his present role damages his Scotland ambitions.
Playing in the bottom six of the Premiership won’t boost them.
Football is a team game, but in the final analysis it’s every man for himself.
By the time you read this Dundee FC will have played at Alloa and be closer to or further from a play off place.
The greatest danger to any club is fan apathy, but fortunately the club support hasn’t succumbed to that yet, if their righteous anger at current inconsistent form is any guide.
I’ve written here previously that a young manager should be backed and I think James McPake has been well supported by those who own the club.
It’s unclear to me though where the Dark Blues are going.
The term “mission creep” is used in politics when policies appear to drift or become disconnected from optimistic expectations.
I sense a bit of that happening at Dens Park.
The squad assembled shouldn’t be losing at home to Ayr United but they did in midweek and the danger of drifting out of contention for a play off place is a real one.
The Dens hierarchy needs to give the supporters a sense of hope and purpose.
A clear statement of realistic aims and ambitions on everything from how they expect the team to be performing – and even an update on the new stadium proposals – would be timely and give the fans some reasons to be cheerful.
The proposals for Celtic and Rangers colt teams to play in the lower leagues have angered some fans in those divisions.
The arguments that the move would financially benefit the clubs and allow them to compete against the future cream of the crop haven’t persuaded many supporters.
Lower league existence is perilous enough in the good times, so the middle of an economic maelstrom during Covid-19 probably isn’t the best time to risk alienating the fans who keep those clubs alive.