Scotland manager Alex McLeish has challenged his new-look squad to fill the void after being denied the services of key players for next month’s friendly against Belgium and the Nations League opener against Albania at Hampden.
Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna, who captained the side in the last international against Mexico, is unavailable due to a hamstring injury while Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur has made himself unavailable for selection due to a niggling back injury.
McLeish has handed call-ups to John Souttar, of Hearts, and Celtic’s Jack Hendry while Dons captain Graeme Shinnie keeps his place in the squad after featuring in the South American summer tour and McLeish wants his players to stand up and be counted.
He said: “It’s a blow to lose Scott as he has been very consistent in his internationals and grown with every appearance. It is a blow but we have good players who can come in for these injured guys.
“We’re quite lucky in terms of the left side of defence in having people like Kieran Tierney there.
“It’s brilliant for the Scottish game that we have that competition. Rangers and Celtic have predominantly run away with things over the year but there is a resurgence at Aberdeen who look very consistent, there’s Hibs, Hearts are top of the league and Motherwell were very good on Sunday.
“This competition has sparked it up a bit which is why people like John McGinn have gone to England and McKenna is under scrutiny from English clubs and Celtic.”
McLeish is disappointed to lose the services of McArthur and has no idea when the midfielder’s self-imposed absence will end but has warned the Palace player he runs the risk of losing his place in the squad.
He said: “It is disappointing not to have him but he has some issues with his body. It’s disappointing to lose him but it’s his personal decision. He has not said he has hung up his boots for Scotland but that’s how he feels at the moment.
“He has just signed a new contract with Crystal Palace and I guess if we have a winning formula without him it will be difficult for anyone to get back in.”
Swansea striker Oli McBurnie, midfielder McGinn and Souttar are three players McLeish hopes to see take their chance in the next two games.
He said: Souttar is a good young player. We’ve assessed a lot of young players in the last few months and I’ve seen a lot of him at Hearts.
“He has started the season confidently and he now has the captain’s armband so it is time to bring him in.
“McGinn has definitely got improvement in him and he will get better with experience of playing for Scotland and in the Championship which is the fifth highest supported league in the world.
“Oli is a young guy and he has started the season very well. He is making goals and scoring them but the more he is involved in international football the more he will improve. It will be nice to see him get off the mark.
“We’ve been crying out for a Kenny Dalglish for the last 20 years haven’t we? It’s part of the challenge for the players to show they can step up.”