GORDON Strachan has admitted he is facing a selection dilemma up front in Scotland’s vital Russia 2018 qualifier against Slovenia this weekend - due to the fact just one of his five strikers started at the weekend.
Strachan has named Steven Fletcher, Leigh Griffiths, Chris Martin, Steven Naismith and Jordan Rhodes in his 30 man squad for the friendly international against Canada tomorrow night and Slovenia on Sunday.
However, only Rhodes, who last played under Strachan nearly two years ago when he came on as a second half substitute in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Gibraltar, was picked by his club manager ahead of the double header.
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The 27-year-old played for Sheffield Wednesday, where he is on loan from Middlesbrough until the end of the season, in their 2-0 defeat to Sky Bet Championship rivals Reading on Friday evening.
Elsewhere, Fletcher (Wednesday) and Naismith (Norwich City) only came on as substitutes while Griffiths (Celtic) and Martin (Fulham) remained on the bench.
Strachan, whose side is second bottom of Group F and needs to beat Slovenia to keep alive their slim hopes of reaching next year’s World Cup finals, admitted the meeting with Canada at Easter Road will give his forwards much-needed game time.
“There are players who haven't played so much for their clubs,” he said. “I'm trying to get a shape that can affect Canada, but will also give players like Steven Naismith, Chris Martin, Ikechi Anya and Steven Fletcher - guys who have not had a lot of game time - some match action.
“I want to know how fit they are. We can all take their heart rates, body fat and all the rest of it. But you need to see people in games. It’s a must win game. We must get the three points.
“I am pleased we have taken the Canada game now. I did think I would need to do it. Because look at the strikers. Of the five we've picked, only one has started over the last couple of weekends. That's a bit disappointing for them - and for us.
“Because that striking business, it's like putting at golf. You can get to a certain stage with your game, but playing regularly is what makes you able to make that putt. It's the same with the finishing for strikers. You need that clinical edge.”
Asked if not featuring regularly at club level would hinder a striker’s chances of getting selected against Slovenia, Strachan replied: “Well, it can't, because I wouldn't have anybody to start. Even if you look at Jordan, he's only played the last four or five games. He didn't have a game before that. So, in terms of games, the strikers have played hardly any games, as such.
“What you've got to look for then is who looks good, who looks strong, who is the fittest, who will last the longest and who feels good about themselves?
“People can be out of the team and still feel really good about themselves, while others take it personally when they're not getting picked. You can see that from their body language. Some get frustrated. And you don't want that frustration coming in. Because it can spread through the team, a frustration. So there are a lot of elements in how I pick this side."
Grant Hanley (Newcastle United), James McArthur (Crystal Palace) and Matt Phillips (West Brom) have all be forced to withdraw from the squad due to injuries. James Morrison of West Brom is hoping to be available for the Slovenia game. Leeds United centre back Liam Cooper has been called into the squad.