Steve Clarke has told Lawrence Shankland the door is not closed on his Scotland dream, according to Dundee United boss Micky Mellon.
Shankland was left out of Clarke’s national squad on Tuesday, with Southampton’s Che Adams and Hibs’ Kevin Nisbet receiving their first call-ups.
The United hit man has scored more goals this season than three of the five strikers listed in the national squad, Lyndon Dykes, Ryan Fraser and Oli McBurnie.
The 25-year-old was part of the squad that won Scotland a place at their first major tournament since 1998 – and scored a penalty in the shoot-out against Israel in the play-off semi-finals.
Despite missing out this time though, United boss Mellon says he’ll work with Shankland to get him back in the squad.
“He spoke to Steve Clarke, Steve was great with him, and me and him [Shankland] had a chat and we know what we’re going to do going forward to give him the best chance possible of being involved with the national team,” he said.
“It would go without saying that Lawrence will be disappointed he’s not in, but he’s got to take on the challenge now. He took it the right way.”
‘He’s improving all the time’
Shankland has seven league goals this season for the Arabs and Mellon believes he has what it takes to get back involved with the national side.
“His work-rate, his hold up play, we all know he can score goals,” said the United manager.
“He’s improving all the time, working hard all the time, he’s got the right attitude and he’ll give it all he’s got to try and get back into that group again.
“He wants to play for Scotland. It’s a great place that Steve Clarke has got his squad in, where people are chomping at the bit, they understand and go out there and fight to try and get back in the squad.
“Steve made it clear to him [Shankland] that he’d be watching him and he rates him very highly as a player.”
Shankland bagged 28 goals in just 33 games last season, including 24 goals in the Scottish Championship, which prompted his first call-up in October 2019.
But after a leaner spell in the Premiership Mellon says the striker has had to adapt his game to play against better teams this season.
“Everybody wants to score more goals, of course they do, but we’re on a different level now,” he said.
“When you move up a level I think common sense will tell you it’s more difficult but they’re meeting the asks now.
“Last season Dundee United, more or less every week, played against a block.
“This season it’s very different. We’re now playing against Celtic and Rangers, Aberdeen, Hibs.
“The asks are different and they attack us back, it’s about developing your game to go and play against a different style that’s asking different questions and that’s what we’ve had to try and do.”
Dons visit Dundee on Saturday
United welcome Aberdeen to Tannadice on Saturday in their final game before the split, with the other two meetings between the clubs this season ending in nil-nil draws.
Former Dons manager Derek McInnes, whom Mellon has known since he was 12, left Pittodrie by mutual consent this month after eight years in charge.
Trying to improve on what McInnes did at Aberdeen will be a “big ask” according to Mellon, after McInnes led them to a League Cup and four consecutive second place finishes between 2015 and 2018.
He said: “The challenge for them [McInnes’ successor] will be to do better than Derek and that will be a big ask.
“Doing better than Derek, certainly over the last number of years, would be getting inside Celtic and Rangers, positionally.
“Derek will be back. He’s a very good manager and a good guy.
“When I came back to Scotland he was one of the absolute first managers to lift the phone to me and speak to me which I really appreciated.”
Mellon will have almost a full-strength squad to choose from after a weekend off last week.
“We are at full complement, only Peter Pawlett is struggling a wee bit but we’ll see how that is.”
Interim Aberdeen manager Paul Sheerin will be in the dugout at Tannadice on Saturday, supported by Barry Robson and Neil Simpson.