Scotland legend Stuart McCall insists new Aberdeen signing Declan Gallagher can force his way into the Euro 2020 starting XI.
Centre-back Gallagher will meet up with the Dons following the Euro 2020 finals having agreed a two-year contract.
The 30-year-old former Motherwell defender played a pivotal role in securing qualification to the Euros with a superb performance in the play-off final defeat of Serbia in November.
However a hamstring injury saw Gallagher, capped seven times, lose his place in the team for the World Cup qualifiers in March where he was an unused substitute.
McCall insists Declan Gallagher can still use the Scotland training camp and pre-tournament friendlies to make a ‘bang’ and force his way back into boss Steve Clarke’s starting line-up for the Scots’ Euro 2020 opener against Czech Republic on June 14.
Gallagher was introduced as substitute in the 61st minute of Scotland’s friendly draw with Netherlands.
McCall said: “Declan Gallagher has been terrific and has done really, really well for Scotland.
“When Gallagher and Motherwell’s Stephen O’Donnell went into the team people wondered how they would do but they have both been excellent.
“Steve Clarke might have a team in his mind now for the Czech Republic.
“However there will still be a couple of niggles and injuries and there will also be a player who goes ‘bang’ in the training sessions.
“So Gallagher has a chance and I think O’Donnell will start.”
Progressing from group stage the target
McCall, 56, holds the distinction of having played in every one of Scotland’s games at Euro finals.
He played in all three group matches at both Euro 92 and Euro 96.
A veteran of the 1990 World Cup finals, where he also played all three group games and scored in a 2-1 defeat of Sweden, McCall accepts the target for the Scots must be to progress from the group.
Scotland have never progressed to the knock-out stages of a tournament before.
For McCall the key is not losing the opener to Czech Republic at Hamdpen as England and beaten World Cup 2018 finalists Croatia lie ahead.
He said: ” If you get into any tournament, you’ve always got to try to progress to the next phase.
“However it is difficult.
“It’s important that you don’t lose your first game.
“You go back to Italia ’90 where we lost against Costa Rica and then Euro ’92 against Holland.
“At Euro ’96 we nicked a 0-0 against the Dutch again, and at least that gave us that chance that we could go and qualify and the pressure isn’t on the second game so much.
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) May 31, 2021
“Against Croatia we’ve had a decent record of late.
“I remember going over in the backroom staff with Gordon (Strachan) and Mark (McGhee) and beating them over there (1-0, World Cup qualifier June 7, 2013) when they were ranked fourth in the world.
“You’ve just got to do the best you can, but Steve has got to aim to progress into the next round, and that would be a success if we could get through to the next stage.”
Confident of avoiding tournament heartache
Scotland will arguably never have a better chance of finally progressing to the knock-out stage as two nations in each of the six groups will proceed to the round of 16 along with the four best third-placed finishers.
McCall hopes Clarke’s squad can avoid the stress, and ultimate heartache, of previous Scottish squads at major tournaments in narrowly losing out on progressing from the group.
He said: “More than half of the third places go through so there are more opportunities to do it.
“I’m more confident now looking at this group of players.
“I go back to Italia ’90 where we were waiting until the next day for someone else to do something and it didn’t happen, then you saw what happened at Euro ’96, it’s 4-0 England and then it’s 4-1.”
Premier League stars leading the way
McCall is given hope by the Scottish players starring in the English Premier League – particularly captain Andy Robertson (Liverpool), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Kieran Tierney (Arsenal) and John McGinn (Aston Villa).
He believes Clarke will set up with a back five in the Euro 2020 opener against Czech Republic.
He said: “Robertson has had a really good end to the season.
“Tierney, as we know, is a top class player.
“As is McGinn, who when playing for Scotland is absolutely outstanding.
“He’s had a good season for Villa as well. And obviously McTominay.
“We are used to maybe having one or two, but now we’ve got four or five really good ones allied to some hard working players.
“Under Steve we’ll be organised, that’s for sure, and everyone will know their roles and responsibilities.
“It will be interesting to see how we go shape-wise.
“It depends how he sees it against different opposition, but I’d imagine he would start with a five and then it is dependent on what goes on in front.”
Tartan Army’s return to Hampden will be key
McCall is heartened that the Tartan Army will be inside Hampden to cheer on the Scots in their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup.
It is a welcome, and timely return, after more than a year of empty stadiums due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Former Rangers and Everton midfielder McCall said: “Do you know what gives me more of a buzz about it?
“The supporters being back in the grounds.
“I know we’re only going to have 12,500 here, but to the players it will be like a full house because they’ve been that used to playing in empty stadiums.”
McCall and fellow Scotland legend Darren Jackson took part in a Walking Football session as Glasgow welcomed the UEFA EURO 2020 Trophy to Toryglen Football Centre.
The Henri Delaunay Cup made its penultimate stop on tour before heading to London.
Over 70 participants got the chance to play Walking Football in front of the iconic trophy, as the country looks ahead to Scotland’s first tournament appearance in 23 years.