With the new year fast approaching, we’ve decided to explore the football issues which are close to the Red Army’s heart this festive period.
In this second installment of a five-part series, we ask one of the burning questions followers of the Dons will want to know the answer to for 2021 – Aside from Andy Considine, are there any other Aberdeen players who have a chance of being in Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad for the delayed European Championship finals?
The long forgotten excitement of vying for a Scotland major tournament squad berth
Vying for selection for an international tournament is something a couple of generations of male Scottish players have missed out on.
However, the Dark Blues under the guidance of Steve Clarke have ended a wait since the 1998 World Cup in France to return to the finals of a competition by leading the side to the European Championships in the summer.
The last time the national team played in a major tournament, Craig Brown selected two Aberdeen players – goalkeeper Jim Leighton and defender Derek Whyte – in his 22-man squad.
So which Dons could be part of Clarke’s pool to face the Czech Republic, England and Croatia in Group D?
Andy Considine in contention
Andy Considine is most obvious contender and looks to be the Aberdeen player with the best chance of making the squad.
After being overlooked for international duty for so many years, Clarke handed the 33-year-old his chance in October’s Uefa Nations League wins against Slovakia and the Czech Republic at Hampden.
Such was the impression Considine made, he kept his place in the squad for the Euro play-off final against Serbia.
Although he didn’t feature in the game in Belgrade, he did start the Nations League loss against Slovakia in Trnava that followed.
It’s clear from comments made by Clarke he rates Considine highly and appreciates the job he can do for Scotland.
After Considine’s first two caps, Clarke said: “It was an easy choice as Andrew played two games last month and was terrific in both. He fully deserves his place in the squad.
“Andrew came into the last camp late with not a lot of time to work with the lads, but showed his experience and qualities on the pitch.
“I knew when I put Andrew in that he would acquit himself well. It wasn’t like I was taking a stab in the dark.
“The good thing for me is that I worked in Scottish football for 20 months before I took the national job, so I know the qualities these boys have got.”
Being comfortable playing in either a back three of a back four and the ability to play at centre-back or left-back are plus points for Considine.
Having established himself within the international squad and done well during his three caps, Considine will be hard to displace.
Looking beyond the central defenders which have been mainstays of recent squads: Considine, Declan Gallagher, Scott McKenna, Kieran Tierney and Liam Cooper there aren’t many other names that spring to mind who could be in contention or could justifiably say they should be in the squad.
As a result, barring injury or a drastic drop-off in form, Considine has a very good chance of being in Scotland’s European Championship squad.
Can Lewis Ferguson and Ross McCrorie force their way in?
Of the remainder of the Aberdeen squad, Lewis Ferguson or Ross McCrorie would appear most likely to make a late claim for inclusion in the summer.
Both are veterans of the Under-21s side, with McCrorie captaining Scot Gemmill’s team during their failed bid to reach the U21 Euros.
The 22-year-old has 20 caps for the U21s and was brought into the senior Scotland squad by Clarke for the Nations League victories over Slovakia and the Czech Republic in October.
Although McCrorie was an unused sub, his inclusion perhaps shows he is someone who is in the thoughts of the national team manager.
Often players who are viewed as being capable of becoming full internationals in the future are brought into the squad to gain experience.
Ferguson has won 11 caps for the U21s and continues to impress for Aberdeen.
Since joining from Hamilton Accies in the summer of 2018, the 21-year-old has established himself as one of the first names on Derek McInnes’ team-sheet.
He is yet to receive a full international call-up – but it surely can’t be too far away if he maintains his Pittodrie form. Whether it comes before the summer remains to be seen.
Ferguson scored a superb goal against Hamilton earlier in the season – just one recent reminder of his midfield capabilities:
What counts against McCrorie and Ferguson in the international reckoning is that midfield is the area where Clarke has the most strength in depth.
The Scotland side which ended the long wait to reach a major tournament by defeating Serbia on penalties in November had John McGinn, Ryan Jack and Callum McGregor starting, while Kenny McLean came off the bench.
Stuart Armstrong was an unused sub and another English Premier League midfielder – John Fleck – didn’t make the squad because of injury.
Although Manchester United’s Scott McTominay has been deployed on the right of a three-man defence in recent games, many feel his strongest position is still central midfield and, if Clarke was to make a tactical alteration and move to a back four, it’s likely he would return to a midfield berth.
With such a wealth of options, who all have experience of playing under Clarke already, it is hard to see where McCrorie and Ferguson could break in.
One factor which may potentially give the former a slight edge would be versatility.
McCrorie’s ability to cover centre midfield, centre-back and right-back may give him a great chance of inclusion for the Euros, if Clarke is looking for players who could be used in a number of positions depending on the situation.
Injuries could also be a factor. In this condensed and congested season, if some of Clarke’s key men ended up getting injured and missing the tournament, then the door may be open for McCrorie or Ferguson.