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Scotland should leave stay-away stars in the wilderness: Nicholas


New low: Scotland duo Oliver McBurnie and Johnny Russell
New low: Scotland duo Oliver McBurnie and Johnny Russell

By Andy Newport

Former striker Charlie Nicholas says it is time for Scotland to close the door on the stay-away players who pick and choose when to represent their country.

The recriminations from Thursday's humiliating 3-0 loss to Kazakhstan have continued.

Boss Alex McLeish continues to face calls for his head from furious members of the Tartan Army.

But former Celtic and Arsenal player Nicholas has taken aim at the players who failed to report for duty at the Astana Arena.

While the likes of skipper Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney had valid medical reasons for missing the clash, there has been frustration voiced that Steven Fletcher, Callum Paterson and Ryan Fraser were also absent despite having featured recently for their clubs.

Matt Ritchie, Robert Snodgrass and Tom Cairney have also dropped out in recent months despite having performed well at domestic level.

Now Nicholas says it is time they are shut out unless they firmly pin their colours to Scotland's mast.

The television pundit - capped 20 times for Scotland - said: "A lot of players don't want to come and play for their country. If that's the case we just have to accept it.

"We are where we are. We're not a top nation anymore. We don't have an abundance of talent. We have talented players that you can work with but we don't have a lot of numbers in that.

"Even if that means we have to shake up the Under-21s and bring in younger players.

"It's '98 since we were last at a proper competition. The difference in quality is there but you can still get a blend of youth and experience that want to play.

"If you don't want to play for Scotland, then go away. Sadly we're getting used to that embarrassment as Scotland fans now."

The Scotland players trudged off red faced at the Astana Arena after being outplayed by a side ranked 117th in the world.

They now have the opportunity to bounce back as they move on to San Marino to face the team currently sitting rock bottom of Fifa's global ladder.

And Nicholas called on the mortified squad to take their wrath out on the minnows.

He said: "I think back to the Costa Rica defeat (in 1990) and we like to embarrass ourselves.

"We're used to that and are probably trying to laugh through it but in the days of that defeat we had much better personnel in terms of quality players. These things can happen but this was the ultimate shocker.

"The players must be totally and utterly embarrassed. Between them they must sit down and have a few harsh words with each other because you can blame managers, but these players must deliver now. They have to deliver.

"There is quality in there, we don't have it in depth but we have enough to get through. So, anger channelled positively and in the right way can get us through.

"These players have to perform and take some of the burden off Alex McLeish. Cyprus have got a head start on us after beating San Marino 5-0. There will be a lot of anger in these Scotland players.

"I know we're bad at times but surely we have enough anger in us and the quality to beat San Marino."

Meanwhile, Charlie Adam insists Scotland's humiliating defeat should not be treated as a "sacking offence".

Calls for McLeish's head have come thick and fast but Adam, who played under the Scotland boss during his stint at Rangers, believes his old Ibrox mentor deserves more time after guiding the Scots to the safety net of a Nations League play-off.

"They capitulated too easily," said Adam. "It's an inexperienced group and I didn't see anyone pulling each other together.

"I don't think it's a sacking offence for McLeish. He did his job by getting Scotland to the Nations League play-off.

"There's a reason these type of nights happen and it was down to players not imposing themselves on the opposition."

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