Kenny McLean has defended Scotland colleague Oli McBurnie after he appeared in a friendly for Sheffield United despite withdrawing from the national squad.
McBurnie had taken some criticism for playing for the Blades in a pre-season game against Derby County on Tuesday, after pulling out of the Scotland squad for the Israel and Czech Republic games through injury concerns.
Both his national team boss Steve Clarke and United manager Chris Wilder stated an agreement had been reached for McBurnie to return to his club as he was short of match-fitness. It had been highlighted that getting minutes in a warm-up game was very different to being expected to contribute in a competitive international.
McLean, the former Aberdeen midfielder who signed a new deal at Norwich until 2023 yesterday, is good friends with McBurnie and feels the striker gets a lot of undue criticism.
He said: “I think the people giving him stick don’t really know the whole story, they don’t know the position he’s been in. I’ve been speaking to him a lot in the last few weeks and he’s been struggling with an injury.
“He’s had a season, a couple of weeks off and then he’s not done anything for I don’t know how long. The manager said he spoke to Sheffield United about his situation and he’s not fit enough to play a qualifier for Scotland and that’s it.
“He played in a pre-season game for Sheffield United after one day training. I think if he came away, played Friday and didn’t look fit he’d get even more stick.
“I think he’s done the right thing, he’s trying to get himself fit. The manager has got plenty of options to choose from and if Oli was to come away 50 per cent fit then it wouldn’t be best for us and I think the manager looked at that as well.
“Sometimes he will bring some stuff on himself don’t get me wrong, but I think at times he seems to have a bit of a target on his back. I don’t think it’s justified what people are saying just now. He’s not fit, what else can he do?
“Does he come away and not train, train half the sessions and not be fit to play a qualifier. These are big games for us and we need everyone at 100% and right now Oli is not 100% when he is he’s a great asset for us.”
McBurnie and Lawrence Shankland withdrew from the squad, with Callum Paterson called up to join the two forwards already selected, Lyndon Dykes and Oliver Burke.
Aston Villa’s John McGinn stepped up to provide goals for Scotland towards the end of last year, with six in four games, and McLean is delighted to see his ex-St Mirren colleague continue to make strides.
McLean added: “I think everyone would agree that John’s progress just seems to get better and better. He just keeps bringing that extra couple of per cent every season and it’s great to see, because he’s a boy I’ve seen working hard over the years. From St Mirren he went to Hibs, got games there and got a great move. He keeps excelling at the top level.
“It’s great to see because he’s such an honest boy, he works so hard and you like to see good things come to people like him. He always had the quality but sometimes that’s not enough. But he’s got the whole package. He obviously had the injury towards the end of last season so hopefully he can get back to his best.”
Scotland take on Israel in the Nations League at Hampden tomorrow and then the Czech Republic in Olomouc on Monday night.
McLean hopes the national side can take inspiration from fellow Scot Andy Murray’s performance on Tuesday at the US Open, where he came from two sets down to defeat Yoshihito Nishioka.
He said: “It’s pretty inspirational what he’s done throughout his career and as a Scotsman it makes you proud. When you look at these sportsmen from your own country you need to take inspiration from it and we want to do that as well. We want to be qualifying for tournaments so that people can look at us in that light.
“We do take a lot from watching that and it makes you proud and we want to do as much as we can for the country as well.”