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Dalglish backs Smith over Japan trip

Kenny Dalglish believes Scotland manager Walter Smith has made the right decision in taking the national team to Japan for the Kirin Cup next month.

With the qualifiers for Euro 2008 starting on September 2 against the Faroe Islands at Hampden, Dalglish insists Smith has to see his players in action before deciding on who will lead Scotland's bid to reach the finals in Austria and Switzerland.

The former Scotland forward admitted his reservations over the lengthy trip facing the squad, but maintained Smith had no option other than travelling to the Far East.

He said: 'Unfortunately it is a long trip to Japan and it is not a World Cup which we are going to, but I think it is important for Walter to have these games because otherwise he would be criticised for heading into the qualifiers for the European Championships cold.

'You need the matches so the players get to know each other and Walter needs to see them perform, which meant he had to take the opportunity while it is there.

'It is a long trip, although next season starts a little later than usual so the players will still get a good break in the summer.'

However, despite the fixtures against Bulgaria and Japan coming at the end of a long campaign for many clubs, Dalglish does not believe any of the players picked by Smith should be showing signs of tiredness.

Indeed, the ex-Celtic and Liverpool player thinks Rangers' failure to win a domestic cup and Celtic being eliminated from European competition by Artmedia Bratislava in September means the Old Firm players will actually be in better shape than usual at this stage of the season.

He said: 'Rangers had a good run in Europe but went out of the domestic competitions earlier than usual so their payers shouldn't be too overworked.

'Then you have Celtic who have done well in Scotland but went out of European football early and somebody like Stephen McManus, who is in the squad, must only have played about 50 matches, which isn't too much.

'Also, Hearts players aren't going because of the cup final taking place at the same time, so it's not as if Walter is taking players from them who have taken part in too many games.'

Dalglish was speaking at a McDonald's Football Festival for over 500 youngsters at Ross County's Victoria Park. As head of Scottish Football for McDonald's, Dalglish is delighted with the way youth football is progressing in his home country.

He said: 'We have now created over 1,000 community football coaches in Scotland, which has exceeded all expectations and is only going to benefit the kids.

'That is the important thing and the support from the Scottish FA for the community coaches has been unbelievable.'