Hampden is about to take centre stage over the next few weeks, the conclusion of this season’s truncated Scottish Cup being followed soon after by the stadium hosting four games in a fortnight in the Euro 2020 Finals.
Scotland will feature in two of those matches, and they, along with the trip to Wembley, will have dominated the thoughts of manager Steve Clarke for months now.
He plans to announce his squad in about 10 days time after being forced into something of a rethink by Uefa’s decision to allow three additional players to be included.
Prior to that, I reckoned 21 were certainties to be included. Of those, Ryan Jack and Oli McBurnie have been ruled out by injury. Jack’s absence is a blow, McBurnie’s much less so.
The national manager now has more flexibility, and his final list will depend on where he feels he wants additional cover, and whether or not he plans on using the expanded squad to give younger, uncapped players a taste of the big time.
Steve will also weigh up the loyalty he feels towards those who have served him well and played their part in the qualification campaign, and I do think that will be an important aspect for him.
In fact, it may be the deciding factor, and one which costs a promising youngster a summer to remember.
There should be no concern over the goalkeeping positions, David Marshall and Craig Gordon vying for the starting slot with Jon McLaughlin a decent back-up, and I cannot see the manager adding a fourth option.
Half a dozen defenders are definites with five others, including Andy Considine, left to hope that they get the nod.
I think the Dons stalwart is 50-50, but would hope that the bigger squad will see him make it.
Greg Taylor is one who might face heartache given the quality we have at left-back, with Jack Hendry, Liam Cooper and Liam Palmer the others in the “possibles” camp.
There has been much talk about Nathan Patterson being included. The teenager has started just nine games for Rangers, but does look the real deal, and he is one who I feel will be brought in to prepare him for the future.
Including Scott McTominay as a midfielder, there are seven clear choices, all of whom will go, and I think John Fleck will benefit from the 26-man squad and be included.
David Turnbull’s excellent debut season for Celtic also deserves to be recognised, and he looks certain to have a long international career.
The other uncapped prospect who has had a few headlines is Billy Gilmour, and more out of hope than expectation, I’m looking for him to be included ahead of an additional defender.
Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams will make it and I have included Ryan Fraser as a forward. Clarke may be tempted to bring in Leigh Griffiths, but I think he will resist, with Kevin Nisbet pipping Lawrence Shankland to the remaining place on the back of a more impressive first season in the top-flight.
So the Scotland squad I am predicting Clarke will choose for the Euros is… Marshall, Gordon, McLaughlin: O’Donnell, Hanley, Tierney, McKenna, Gallagher, Robertson, Considine, Palmer, Patterson: McTominay, McGregor, McLean, Armstrong, McGinn, Christie, Fleck, Turnbull, Gilmour: Forrest, Dykes, Adams, Fraser, Nisbet.
‘Superstar’ Neymar found wanting again
As I watched PSG’s latest Champions League implosion I was struck, not for the first time, by the complete lack of impact Neymar made on the game.
The Brazilian comes with a big reputation, but I cannot remember the last time I saw him dominate a match. What I can recall is the countless occasions I have seen him moan, whine, play-act and cheat his way through the 90 minutes.
His stats remain decent enough, but they are not those of a genuine superstar like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, and he does not deserve to be spoken of in those terms.
For me he is style over substance, it’s all about the image, and he is one of a number of such players who are examples of what is wrong with the modern game.
Compare his approach and contribution to that of Phil Foden, who shone on the night for Manchester City. The Englishman has a glowing future ahead of him and, unlike Neymar, will deserve everything he gets.