Who to pick?
Sam Pettit looks at some of the players new Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has to pick from as he looks to put the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign back on track
Last Updated: January 16, 2013 2:53pm
Gordon Strachan has ended his two-year absence from football management to become the new head coach of Scotland's national team. Top of his new agenda will be the tough challenge of reigniting the national side's bid to qualify for the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil.
Most will believe it is too late to save Scotland's qualification campaign but Strachan, who went to the finals of 1982 and 1986 as a player, has six games to resurrect the Tartan Army's bid, starting against Wales at Hampden Park in March.
That gives the new manager two months to analyse his players and work out a plan to bring the very best out of them. He will also have February's friendly with Estonia to put his tactics to the test.
One man at the top of his list could be Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher. The 26-year-old, who had a turbulent relationship with Strachan's predecessor Craig Levein, has netted eight goals for the Black Cats this season following his summer move from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
His form on the international stage has been less emphatic but Fletcher will surely be keen to make up for lost time after ending a self-imposed exile from the national team in October 2012.
If Strachan can form a good understanding between Fletcher and Blackburn Rovers' Jordan Rhodes, he has the base for a formidable partnership up front. Rhodes has been prolific in his first season at Rovers, scoring almost half of their 38 goals this season.
Robert Snodgrass will also be a contender to help the attack. The 25-year-old winger has been a virtual ever-present for Norwich City this season and has seven goals to his name. Scotland have won four of the seven games he has played in.
Strachan will also be eager for Darren Fletcher to return to the international fold, although how soon the Manchester United midfielder will be eligible for selection is unknown.
Fletcher has made ten appearances for the Red Devils this season after recovering from a serious inflammatory bowel condition.
Wigan duo James McArthur and Shaun Maloney could also be key figures. Fans of world and European champions Spain have often attributed their success to members of their setup playing together at club level.
The team-mates have been paired in just one competitive international match and would be an intriguing option for the new Scotland manager.
West Bromwich Albion midfielder Graham Dorrans and Blackpool's exciting winger Matt Phillips are other strong options in midfield, although both are relatively new to the Scotland setup.
Arguably Strachan's greatest resources lie in defence. Gary Caldwell, Steven Whittaker, Daniel Fox and Phil Bardsley have all been regular starters in the Premier League this season, while Celtic's Charlie Mulgrew produced two spectacular displays to keep Lionel Messi at arm's length in their UEFA Champions League meetings with Barcelona.
Aston Villa full back Alan Hutton gained some much-needed game time following his recent loan spell at Nottingham Forest but needs to find another club if he is to maintain his match fitness ahead of the next round of qualifiers.
And Strachan has strong goalkeepers to pick from in Allan McGregor and Matt Gilks.
McGregor has adapted well to life in Turkey since his move to Besiktas, while Gilks has only shipped more than one goal in just 12 of Blackpool's 27 league games this season.
This a new era for Scottish football and Strachan has plenty of talent at his fingertips. The question will be whether he can find the winning formula that so many before him have failed to discover?