Gordon Smith: Scotland boss Alex McLeish has a trip ahead he certainly doesn’t need

Scotland boss Alex McLeish (SNS Group / Alan Harvey)
Scotland boss Alex McLeish (SNS Group / Alan Harvey)

I FEEL sorry for Alex McLeish that he has had to take on Scotland’s summer trip to Central and South America.

He is charged with taking care of the football side of things, specifically with trying to build a side which can lead us to Euro 2020.

And, from that outlook, these games seem far from ideal.

He has tried to be as positive as he can. He has talked up the opportunity the many enforced absentees and last-minute call-offs will present to the raft of uncapped players he has brought into his squad.

All the same, it is hard to see how having to travel without so many of our best players – and I am talking here about the likes of Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney and Leigh Griffiths – can be anything but detrimental to our chances of ending up with anything other than a couple of big defeats.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some positives in the announcement and the call-ups which followed soon after.

It is good to see Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay underline his allegiances by undertaking such a long trip.

We will likewise hope Scott McKenna can take another step down the road towards establishing himself as the long-term answer to our central-defensive problems.

He certainly hasn’t looked out of his depth in the international arena so far. He will be in the happy position of having plenty of familiar faces around him, as Aberdeen club-mates Kenny McLean, Ryan Christie and Graeme Shinnie were all also included.

It is also nice to see Dylan McGeouch get his reward for a great campaign at Hibs. Like Robertson, he is a great example to young players that one failure – in his case at Celtic – doesn’t have to be the end.

However, there is no doubt the fact so many of our guys have continuing commitments elsewhere is a problem.

My worry is that introducing so many players at one time does them no favours. It is much harder to make an impact in a largely-untried group than it is being slotted into a settled side.

Also, quite frankly, I am not convinced all the players who have been brought in are of the required standard to be playing in our national team.

Take Lewis Morgan, for example. At 21 years old, he is a terrific prospect. That is why Celtic bought him from St Mirren.

Is a season showing up well in the Championship enough to justify a place against teams who are heading for the World Cup Finals this summer?

Teams who will play a style of football unlike anything Scotland will encounter unless we make a major Finals? I don’t think so.

We are not even sure Lewis will make Celtic’s first-team squad next season. They might opt instead to send him out on loan to continue his development.

So my fear is we end up looking back on this trip in much the same way as we now view the 2002 tour of South Korea and Hong Kong – the one for which Tommy Burns later said Berti Vogts handed out caps like they were sweeties.

Good luck to them, though, and safe travels.