Naismith laments Ferguson loss

Rangers forward admits midfielder's exit is a heavy blow

Naismith: Understands Ferguson decision

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Steven Naismith feels Barry Ferguson will be a 'massive loss' to Scotland but appreciates his reasons for retiring from the international stage.

"Fergie was the one who probably had the most experience out of the whole squad so it will be a big loss."

Steven Naismith

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Midfielder Ferguson will not play for Scotland again after informing manager Craig Levein of his decision to focus on his club career with Birmingham.

The 32-year-old former Rangers captain was banned from international selection in April last year, along with his then Ibrox colleague Allan McGregor, for his part in the infamous 'Boozegate' scandal and has not played for Scotland since.

Decision

Levein opened the door for both players to return to the squad when he succeeded George Burley as manager in December, but has been forced to accept Ferguson's decision not to return ahead of the impending Euro 2012 qualifiers.

And Scotland and Rangers forward Naismith believes the loss of Ferguson will strike a severe blow to the national side.

"He will be a massive loss," said Naismith. "We felt it at Rangers when he left here.

"It was a massive loss for us and it will be the same again for Scotland, especially on the international stage where you need players who have got a lot of experience.

"Fergie was the one who probably had the most experience out of the whole squad so it will be a big loss.

"But you just have to look at players in the past, guys like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, who have prolonged their careers by stopping playing international football.

"So I can understand totally why Barry has done it."

Naismith is backing Rangers midfielder Kevin Thomson, whose Scotland career has been plagued by injury in the past, to help fill the void left by Ferguson.

"Kevin Thomson was the first name that sprung to mind when I heard the news," he said.

"He has done so well over the last couple of years for Rangers and he was the first to come to my mind.

"There are a few players out there who will think they are good enough. Players who have been down in England, like Graham Dorrans, as well. He has done well at West Brom so he is another candidate."

Departure

Naismith believes former skipper Ferguson's departure will allow senior members of the Scotland squad to play a bigger role.

"James McFadden has been around the international scene for a while so you would be looking at someone like him to have more of an influence on the squad," added Naismith.

"Darren Fletcher is another who has played at the highest level. Lee McCulloch is back as well so there are guys there who we can look up to in the squad."