Oliver Burke has warned Scotland’s no-shows they may find someone has pinched their slot when they finally rejoin Steve Clarke’s squad.
The Scots suffered a fresh blow this week as they prepare to bring the curtain down on a disastrous Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with two dead rubbers against Cyprus and Kazakhstan after skipper Andy Robertson, Scott McTominay, Ryan Fraser and Liam Cooper were all ruled out through injury.
The call-offs sparked a fresh round of debate over the level of commitment being shown to the national team but Alaves forward Burke has no doubt his absent colleagues are genuinely unfit.
However, he warned that there will be plenty of others looking to snatch the positions left vacant.
While Liverpool star Robertson is a certainty to reclaim his slot if he makes himself available for March’s Nations League play-offs – which offer a wild card ticket for next summer’s finals – Burke will be looking to oust Bournemouth wideman Fraser by impressing during the upcoming double-header.
He said: “It’s very disappointing if a player pulls out of a squad when he’s not injured and is maybe prioritising his club.
“But I wouldn’t see (this week’s call-offs) as that. I’d see it as there was games before we come and sometimes you do pick up knocks in your last game which stops you joining up.
“It’s unfortunate that players can’t make the squad because of injuries but that’s part of football. The players here have to come together now, work hard and maybe they can cement their spot – it’s not always a good thing if you do have to pull out.”
The next two games offers Burke the opportunity to wrack up some much-needed minutes.
Since making a £15million switch to West Brom from German outfit RB Leipzig in 2017, he has made just 20 appearances for the Baggies – 18 of those coming from the bench.
A loan stint at Celtic last season offered some more regular action but he has again found himself mostly used as a substitute since being farmed out to his current LaLiga side.
The 22-year-old former Nottingham Forest winger admits the nomadic existence that has seen him clock up six clubs already in his short career is starting to bring him down.
But he is refusing to give up hope that he can find somewhere to call a permanent home.
“It’s been really frustrating not actually staying at one club and cementing a spot,” he explained.
“I’d love to be at a club where I’m the first name on the team sheet every week.
“But that will come with time. I’m still at a good age and I’m just doing everything I can to learn the game so that when opportunities do come, I’m able to stay in the team and get a good run of games, because that’s what I need.
“The situation at West Brom is very difficult for me because I’ve been there for so long but I’ve not played that many games for them.
“You almost feel like you’re not part of that team as I’ve been on loan to all these other clubs.
“I just have to focus on this loan I’m on right now and hopefully good things come from it and it can put me in the shop window.
“Game time is the most important thing for me. When you’re playing week in, week out you have the confidence to show what you’re capable of. Sometimes you come off the bench and think, ‘Right I need to create something or score’ – but then you realise you only have five or 10 minutes.
“The pressure is hard and to make an impact in such a short period of time is difficult.
“I speak to people who have coached me down the years who tell me to look at how far I’ve come and to just keep going, there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
“For me, there have been highs but many lows so I just have to keep working hard and not let my head drop.
“I know what kind of player I am so I just have to keep going and hope good things come.”
Scotland duty has offered some relief from his club concerns and Burke is hoping for a repeat of his June winner against Cyprus the last time the sides met.
He said: “That’s one of my favourite moments in football. I really cherish that memory and hopefully I get many more opportunities to score goals for Scotland.”