A week’s time from now, we will know what the result will be from the Scotland v Northern Ireland B international being played at Broadwood, but the question is, will there be any winners, or only losers?
For George Burley, the occasion seems to hold more risk. As the ‘better team’ (source arrogant Scots fans, not my own opinion) they have more reason to question the usefulness of the exercise. Burley has already come under criticism from Chick Young for the nature, and the timing of the game. He has suffered the setback of Kris Boyd rejecting a chance to return to involvement with the international team, Ala Chris Sutton. On top of that there is ignominy of being unable to select any players involved in the Old Firm set up, as well as players belonging to Aberdeen, Dundee United, Hearts and Hibernian, teams who play on the same night.
For Nigel Worthington, the night provides a great opportunity to look at some of the fringe players available to him in the squad. Expect Tuffey and Carson to get 45 minutes each as both battle to prove themselves worth of a regular squad place, waiting patiently for Maik Taylor’s retirement. Regulars under Roy Millar when he was in charge of the u-21s, Rory McArdle (a defender in the Craigan/Murdock mould), Craig Cathcart and Chris Casement have the opportunity to show Worthington they are ready for the step up. In midfield Michael O’Connor will dominate, showing that his impressive 45 minutes against the Czechs in September was no fluke, while up front I’d expect Jamie Ward to get 70 minutes and a goal, unless Sheffield United remain in the playoffs, in which case his withdrawal would be expected and understood.
Worthington is on record as articulating his belief in these exercises;
“This match bridges the gap between the Under-21s and the seniors, which is a big jump,” said the Northern Ireland manager.
It is an ideal opportunity for us to have a look at some fringe players and some young players. I do not see the point of including players that I know enough about.
“If they perform well against Scotland, they could well be in my thoughts to face Italy [in June].
For Scotland and Burley, I think the match will also prove to be deeply constructive, but he has more obstacles to overcome to convince his players, and the press, that this is so.
Frankly, I think the match will prove to be entirely useful for the Northern Ireland set up. With the team cruelly providing hope of qualification, there is a strong desire for fringe players to realise their dream of international football. It gives Worthington a chance to have a close look at players – some of whom will be a part of our set up for the next few years – not only in training, but in a match setting with a natural competitive edge.