Don't blame friendlies

NEIL LENNON got the news he was dreading when word reached him that Nir Biton had picked up an injury playing for Israel in midweek.

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Nir Biton, pictured receiving treatment last weekend, has had another injury setback on Israel duty in midweek
Nir Biton, pictured receiving treatment last weekend, has had another injury setback on Israel duty in midweek

With 13 first-team players away on international duty, there was always going to be a chance someone would come limping back to Lennoxtown.

However, I don't think that's any reason to have a downer on friendly internationals.

You can pick up an injury just as easily in training. Just look at Steven Mouyokolo, who has been out all season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

And, unlike Jack Wilshere, who will miss at least six weeks of Arsenal's crucial run-in after fracturing a bone in a foot playing for England, at least Celtic's chances of lifting the league title will not be badly damaged by Nir's absence.

It's more of a setback for the lad, who was finally coming on to a game and was clearly benefiting from a run of appearances.

Neil knows when he is buying these players that they are going to be involved in international matches, and I am sure he would never try to persuade any of them to pull out, even for friendly matches.

You can disappoint a player if you try to do that because representing your country, even when they play so many games these days, is still a big thing for most guys.

Some people would prefer to see friendlies replaced by get-togethers. And, from the point of view of a manager like Gordon Strachan, it would certainly have given him more time to work with his squad.

This week, they didn't all get together until Monday because of Sunday's games, and then they were off to Poland the following day for Wednesday's match.

Despite how little preparation time they were allowed, Scotland got another excellent result - sealed by Scott Brown's terrific strike - which keeps the momentum going.

I have to admit, what I saw of the game underlined how much of an effect being drawn in the same Euro 2016 qualifying group had on the way both teams went about it.

The first half was very much a friendly. But it picked up after the break, and you could see there was absolutely no negativity about the way Scotland performed.

There is a real camaraderie running through the squad, and, for that alone, Gordon deserves huge credit.

There comes a time in every manager's life when international football suits perfectly.

At 57, Gordon's there now.


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