Kris Commons’ Scotland place beneath menace
CRAIG LEVEIN has warned Kris Commons that his flying start to the season with Celtic may not be enough to get him on his squad in Scotland for next month’s World Cup double headers.
And the national team boss rhymed with EIGHT potential wingers who he believes could be ahead of the parkhead ace in the battle for a spot against Serbia and Macedonia.
Commons was absent from the initial standard he set after his first move to the SPL in a bad final season for Scotland. But the player set this campaign on fire with four goals in five games.
His last goal marked the crucial start in Sweden on Tuesday night against Helsingborgs to bring the hoops one step closer to the Champions League while continuing his good start.
That blistering shape doesn’t look like it will be enough to convince him of Levein when he names his squad for the crucial first two Brazil 2014 qualifiers at Hampden.
Commons – who qualifies for Scotland under the grandmother rule – has played nine international matches, but his last was 16 months ago in the friendly against Brazil at the Emirates Stadium.
And Levein says it says everything about the quality at his disposal that Commons, who was knocked out of the Carling Nations Cup tournament two seasons ago after a strenuous national campaign because of fatigue, doesn’t guarantee a place for the Hampden double-headed ball .
The Scottish boss said: “I emailed my coaches at the end of the last meeting asking them to choose their 24 players and we talked about Kris Commons. There’s no doubt he’s in a bit of shape.
“But I have James Forrest, Matty Phillips, Robert Snodgrass, Steven Naismith, Shaun Maloney, James Morrison, Jamie Mackie, and Barry Robson. These guys were with me game after game.
“My loyalty is probably to these people before anyone else. I am not saying in any way that Kris will not be involved, but of all positions on the team, I would say that this was our strongest area.
“I’m looking at two broad positions and I’ve named eight players who are more than capable and that’s before I even get to Kris. This is very positive for me. I can’t guarantee Kris a place.
“I could tell you now, Naismith and Morrison will be in the roster. Forrest was brilliant for us in Slovenia. But Kris got off to a good start to the season. I know that. I am not aware of that.
“Anyone would admit he had a bad season last season, but he started this season the way he did two years ago. But while he was out, other guys came in and did exceptionally well, no more than Robert Snodgrass in the last game. It’s a great position to be here.
“I’m very strong with guys who have done well in previous games. There are many players who have jumped one rung up the ladder.
“Blackpool just threw back a £ 6m bid on Matty Phillips and I think the world of him and he will be a real top player. There is a loyalty to players who have done well for Scotland and have proven their ability to get the job done, have shown great loyalty and show up to games.
“I want it to be really difficult to get into the Scottish squad. I want people to be disappointed. Up to eight players will be very disappointed when I mention this squad.
“But to get Scotland back into a position where it’s a dreaded team and Hampden is a place where the teams don’t want to come, I need really strong competition across the squad.
“We always seem to have a bit of a problem with certain positions here or there, but in general – other than the goalkeeping position – we’ve improved. The hitting position has improved as Jordan Rhodes did so well in the last game.
“The midfield is really strong and Andy Webster returns to play with Hearts week after week. That put him in the center-back position and that made him stronger.
“Provided we start with as many players as possible, we are in as good a position as possible.”
The road to Rio starts in the park on September 8 when Serbia visits Hampden, but the advertising started yesterday in London when Levein stood in line with Group A rivals Roy Hodgson, Michael O’Neill and Chris Coleman.
Speaking as the national team sponsor at the Vauxhall event, Levein admitted that Celtic, getting closer to the Champions League, is a huge advantage for him – even if it doesn’t include Commons.
He said of the Hoops win in Sweden during the week: “It’s brilliant for Celtic, brilliant for Scottish football. We were all involved in this negativity over the summer.
“You want your teams to play in the Champions League.
“You want your players to play in the Premier League so that when other countries receive the team sheet they say, ‘Wait a minute, I saw these players play in the Champions League the other day. He’s a good player so they’re a strong team.
“Everything that has happened so far has been good. Everything. Experience is something I can use to help us with the qualifiers.
“A lot of really good has happened. There are only two games during my tenure that I would be really disappointed with. If I were in a club, I would like to say that.
“Things are going pretty well – but when the gun is fired you have to be ready.”
Serbia are Scotland’s first opponents in World Cup qualifiers and new boss Sinisa Mihajlovic is without a win in four games responsible for his country. But Levein knows they will be tough opponents.
He said, “I’ve been watching her for months now. You wagered an insane number of players.
“In the last four friendlies they have played around 38 players, which is a phenomenal amount.
“But when it comes to qualification, you can narrow it down. The new coach has only played four games.
“Serbia is rated in the second pot and Belgium in the third pot. Please do not underestimate the first two games.
“Wales is the lowest seed and could be one of the toughest games.
“These games are an opportunity to show how far we’ve come, to show that the players have made progress. It’s massive for us, massive for me.
“There is no one in Scotland who wants to go to Brazil more than I do.”