Light Of Experience

Last updated : 09 February 2011 By Ed_ScottishFitba

Scotland line up against Northern Ireland tonight as part of the Carling Nations Cup with a side that is a bit short on experience at international compared to the opposition. When the whistle blows at the Aviva Stadium tonight, captain Kenny Miller will be adding to his  51 appearances while Blackburn defender Grant Hanley, Aberdeen striker Chris Maguire, Leeds striker Robert Snodgrass and Celtic right back Mark Wilson will bel looking to win their first caps. Scotland manager Craig Levein said: "I am guessing but I think there will be around 150 caps in my starting 11 and over 50 of those belong to Kenny Miller. The Northern Ireland team will have anywhere between 350 and 400 caps I would imagine. What we have is a young, maybe inexperienced squad but in my eyes a hugely-talented squad. There will probably be a few debuts. I am not telling you that these guys will start but I expect there will be some debutants during the game."

Levein is always on the look out for players who are eligible to play for Scotland but was uneasy when asked what progress he had made in finding out if Celtic's English-born striker, Gary Hooper, was eligible to play for Scotland through his grandfather. Speaking last night, he said: "We have a game tomorrow and I don't want to get drawn on talking about individuals at this time. What I can tell you is that my policy has not changed. I will search high and low to find players who can enhance the squad and that is what I will continue to do. I want to develop a club mentality, work with the players to produce better results and keep improving. Where those players come from is of no great interest to me, the level that they are playing at is of far more interest to me. Lads who play at the top level are players that I want to play for Scotland."

Levein was also steering well clear of getting drawn into a discussion over the possibility that James McCarthy could make himself available for the country of his birth. The Wigan player opted to play for the Republic of Ireland through the grandparent rule but there was some speculation about his commitment after he pulled out of the Irish squad for last night's Carling Nations Cup game against Wales which the republic won 3-0. Having only played in a friendly for Ireland, the former Hamilton midfielder could still play for Scotland. But Levein said: "I can only reiterate that I want only the best players available in the Scottish national team. We are getting sidetracked talking about something that isn't that important just now."

Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)

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