JAMES MCFADDEN knows how it feels to carry a country’s hopes on his shoulders.
From his debut as Berti Vogts’ cheeky boy in 2002, until his 48th and final cap under Craig Levein eight years later, the striker was the Tartan Army’s talisman and 15 goals in 48 games was a decent return for a player in a side which often struggled to score.
Although still playing with Queen of the South, the 34-year-old is now a fan again and, in Leigh Griffiths, he claims that Scotland have finally found a player to replace him.
Many, including Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, were unconvinced by the Celtic striker’s ability to operate at international level.
But in the last year he’s transformed himself into an automatic starter, home and away, and McFadden is convinced that the 27-year-old is getting better and better.
“It’s been brilliant watching him progress,” Faddy claimed. “When he was scoring his goals regularly for Celtic, but still not getting in for Scotland, Gordon obviously wanted a bit more from him.
“He’s doing that now. As a natural goalscorer, he’ll be raging about not getting one against Slovakia, but he does so well for the team.
“Sometimes he comes a bit too short for my liking but he moves off the front, gets on the half turn and fires in shots from the edge of the box. He also gets crosses in, gets on the end of crosses – his game has evolved so much.
“Gordon says he’s the first name on the teamsheet now, and he’s one you just feel is likely to score every time he plays. He’s found his rhythm.
“He’s the No.1 striker for Celtic, No.1 for Scotland, everyone is looking for him to be the man and he does it well.”
McFadden also praised Griffiths for not throwing a strop when he was scoring 40 goals in a season for the champions and STILL not being selected by Strachan.
“He could easily have sat there and said: ‘Well, I score goals, so I should be playing’. But, instead, he worked hard and changed his game – he added to it.
“We’ve been saying for years that we need a No.9, someone to lead the line, and he’s doing it now. Okay, he went a wee while without getting his first goal but he brings so much more to the team now.
“Everyone is backing him because of the form he’s in for club and country. It was great play from him to set up the goal against Slovakia. He’s just become a better player.
“A lot has been made of the Celtic players being in and it’s been a huge factor. They’re used to winning and playing a certain style.”
McFadden was speaking at a William Hill event. William Hill is a proud sponsor of Scottish football.
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