Gordon out of Scotland squad for Norway test
Scotland boss George Burley today challenged his rookie goalkeepers to fill the void left by Craig Gordon after being forced to leave the Sunderland star out of his squad for the World Cup qualifier in Norway.
Gordon has been struggling to regain full fitness following knee surgery at the start of May and Burley admitted it would have taken "a miracle'' for the 26-year-old to have been ready for next Wednesday's crucial Group Nine showdown in Oslo.
With long-time understudy Allan McGregor having been banned for life from representing his country, Burley has been left with a trio of keepers boasting only five caps between them.
The Scotland boss admitted Gordon's absence was "a huge loss'' but called on Neil Alexander, David Marshall and the uncapped Jamie Langfield to stake a claim to replace him during training in the next week.
"We've brought three goalkeepers who are desperate to play,'' Burley said after unveiling his 23-man squad at Hampden this morning.
"David Marshall, of course, has been involved in the squad before. Neil Alexander has done terrifically well in the last couple of months with Rangers, picking up the title - and he's had a good pre-season. Jamie Langfield, I saw playing for Aberdeen last week.
"I think Neil's got a game on Wednesday, David Marshall plays on Saturday in the Championship, so we've got competition there. There's no doubt Craig will be a loss, but it will give somebody else an opportunity.''
Despite his bullishness, it is telling Burley tried to give Gordon as long as possible to prove his fitness. The former Hearts keeper is one of a number of injury absentees Scotland have been forced to contend with.
That has led to a a first call-up for three years for Burnley captain Steven Caldwell, who could partner brother Gary at the heart of the defence.
Preston full-back Callum Davidson is also recalled, as is Celtic winger Shaun Maloney.
There was a surprise call for Rangers striker Steven Naismith, who earned his sole senior cap more than two years ago.
Talismanic forward James McFadden is back in the fold for the first time since November.
But there is no place for veteran Rangers defender David Weir, whose distinguished international career looks to be at an end.
"David was fantastic, one of the best professionals I've ever worked with,'' said Burley.
Burley was particularly enthused by Burnley stopper Caldwell, saying: "There's no doubt he's grown in stature and strength - matured as a centre half - and I think it was time to maybe bring him in when he's at the peak of his career.
"David has been great and I wish we had more professionals in Scotland like David Weir. But I think, coming 40, maybe it was a time to have a look at Steven.''
Celtic midfielder Scott Brown was included in the squad, despite only recently returning from ankle surgery, with Burley desperate for the dynamic midfielder to prove his fitness.
"With Scott, it's one day at a time,'' he said.
"But there's no doubt that a fully fit Scott Brown's something that Scotland need and I'm sure Celtic want him back to that 100% fitness as well.''
Match fitness is likely to be Burley's biggest concern going into next week's game, which could see Scotland tighten their grip on second place in Group Nine.
Scottish clubs have already suffered in Europe this term after playing sides who are well into their domestic seasons.
The same applies to Norway, who are bottom of the group, and Burley admitted Scotland would be unable to match their opponents' fitness.
"Well, you can't,'' he said. "I don't think fitness is a problem because the players have been back five or six weeks. We'll be keeping it nice and sharp and bright and it'll be down to attitude as well of course.''