DAVID WEIR has told all Scottish players to embrace any opportunity they are given to be involved in the end-of-season tour of Peru and Mexico.
The former national skipper knows there are many who would prefer to scrap the trip to the other side of the world at the end of May – but he is not one of them.
Weir was involved is such matches during his career, and recalled playing for his country at the end of season 2005/06 in Japan’s Kirin Cup.
The 47-year-old looks upon this double-header as being an ideal chance for fringe players to catch the eye of Alex McLeish and his backroom staff.
They should not be dismissing it, and looking for excuses to withdraw from the squad.
Weir told The Sunday Post: “The trip to Peru and Mexico has been on the receiving end of some criticism from media pundits and former players.
“I can understand why they would think that the arrangement is far from ideal.
“However, every player has to be of a different mind-set.
“When I was playing for my country, I welcomed the opportunity to play every game – friendly or competitive, home or away.
“I enjoyed going abroad to play games for Scotland. I looked upon it as a chance to develop my knowledge of the game and a chance to see a country I might not normally go to for a family holiday.
“I also tried to use the spare time wisely.
“I would mix with other players, and gather wee bits of information about the game and tactics, and what different club managers were doing in terms of training and man-management.
“The game is all about learning and improving. I never wanted to stand still.
“There may well be a different mentality these days, but players should try to never switch off.
“But, to get back to the current Scotland squad, I would tell any player to go for the two games if they are picked.
“Rise to the challenge and go for it.
“There will be a number of so-called ‘fringe’ players, and they should take any inclusion as a positive.
“They must ignore any negativity.
“This will be their chance to impress Alex McLeish.
“First of all, turning up and showing the correct professionalism and enthusiasm will be a massive tick.
“You will then be given an opportunity to play in the games, and that requires 100% focus and concentration.
“If you can shine and do things right, then Alex will note it.
“You can be sure that Peru and Mexico will be taking the games seriously as both teams are going to the World Cup Finals in Russia.
“The bigger picture from all of that is that when it comes to selecting the squad for the competitive games in September, and it comes down to one or two places for two or three players, then Alex will remember the guy who turned up for the games in Peru and Mexico.
“Listen, it will not guarantee anything, because ability will be the overriding factor.
“But it will not do any harm to have a good attendance record.
“There is a lot to be said for loyalty and good professionalism. It doesn’t go unnoticed. I think Craig Brown was always big on that.”
The former Rangers and Nottingham Forest assistant manager believes football is now a 12-month sport. Gone are the days of the six-week summer break.
Weir thinks a different mentality is needed in the modern game.
Capped 69 times for Scotland and a member of the 1998 World Cup squad, Weir said: “Every Scot wants to see the national team qualifying for a major finals. That has to be the aim for the 2020 Euros.
“So we should be looking upon this tour as a warm-up for having a full summer two years down the line.
“I don’t think it’s necessary for players to have five or six weeks off now between seasons. I don’t think players want that.
“The top players will get two weeks off in the summer, a maximum of three.
“Why should any of our players want more? Clubs look after their players during the full season, and their bodies and fitness levels should be in decent shape all year round.
“So, we need to be aware of this and be prepared for playing every month of the year.
“I can understand the need for rest, of course I do.
“For example, I totally get why the Celtic players may not be involved in the Scotland tour because they will have Champions League qualifiers in late June/early July.
“However, all in all, play as much football as you can. Be dedicated to your profession and enjoy it.
“It’s a short career. You are a long time out of the game.”
Weir hopes to be watching Scotland in the Euro Finals in 2020, and wants to see McLeish lead the nation to a successful era.
He said: “We all know it’s been far too long since me appeared in a major tournament. It’s been 20 years and I can’t believe that, to be honest.
“I was at France in 1998 and it was a wonderful experience. I hope this squad can taste it sooner rather than later.
“Alex McLeish is a good manager, and he has two good men beside him in Peter Grant and James McFadden. The desire to win from all three will be huge.
“There appears to be a good blend in the squad of experienced payers and raw talent.
“We have the likes of Craig Gordon and Allan McGregor, and then there are the senior lads from Celtic. We also have Andy Robertson doing superbly well at Liverpool week in, week out.
“Add that to the likes of Scott McTominay – coming through at Manchester United and making his Scotland debut last month against Costa Rica – shows we are getting there.
“It’s all about getting the balance right and winning games of football.
“I’m not saying the competitive games against Albania and Israel will be easy, but I think the draw has given us a good chance of winning the group. We can then take it from there.
“I hope it goes well for Alex. He is a good guy and deserves success.”
Weir is out of the game at the moment, but is looking for the right opportunity. He has been assistant manager to Mark Warburton at Brentford, Rangers and Nottingham Forest, but would consider any opportunity.
He said: “I’ve had some great experiences in the past five or six years. It’s been a massive learning curve.
“It’s been a pleasure and an education to work with Mark. He knows the game and is very good at his job.
“We’ll see what happens in the future, but I’d never rule anything out or in. You judge any opportunity on its own merit as there is no set formula.
“But I have been using my time out of the game wisely, and will continue to do so.
“Football is a game that doesn’t really allow managers the necessary time to put things right.
“So you need to be ready to hit the ground running, and not waste time.”