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George Cran: ‘Is Shankland call-up clouding potential for Scots getting a doing?’


I fear for Scotland tomorrow night in Moscow – I don’t think they’ll arrive back from Russia with much love heading their way.

All the news stories coming out of Hampden have been positive in the past week.

I’m delighted Lawrence Shankland has been called up and it is deserved completely.

People get caught up in levels or who players are playing against but the basic thing is the coach picks the best 24 players at his disposal.

Right now, with our dearth of strikers, that means young Lawrence has his chance – and I back him to hit the net against San Marino on Sunday.

Lawrence Shankland won the Ladbrokes Championship Player of the Month Award for August, and his form continued into September.

Then there’s Declan Gallagher, formerly of Dens Park, someone I’ve bumped into from time to time over the past year or so in Dundee.

He’s worked extremely hard to put his past behind him and, fair play, he deserves to be in the squad.

I’d say he’s probably been the most consistent Scottish defender in the Premiership for the past two seasons.

The massive worry I have is all this good news, particularly up here where it’s been Shankland, Shankland, Shankland since the start of last week, is that all this is clouding the potential of a serious doing from the Russians.

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The home side have a strong defence and hold a couple of proper matchwinners in their ranks in Monaco’s classy midfielder Aleksandr Golovin feeding man mountain and goal machine Artem Dzyuba.

The big striker has 21 international goals from just 38 games, including six in five matches this calendar year and a goal at Hampden last month.

My real concern is their strongest players will be coming up against the weakest part of our team.

As much as we’ve struggled for a striker to lead the line recently, allowing Shankland his opportunity, it’s the defence that’s the weakness.

I have plenty of respect for Charlie Mulgrew and the service he has given to Scotland – he leads at the back and does all he can defensively but there’s a reason he plays for Wigan Athletic at the wrong end of the English Championship.

With no Scott McKenna or John Souttar available we are short of a centre-half to partner Mulgrew – giving Gallagher his chance.

Steve Clarke has Stuart Findlay and Michael Devlin as other options for that position but either would be making an international debut.

I get the feeling the wily Dzyuba will fancy his chances against our boys tomorrow night and that has me seriously worried.

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