GORDON Strachan today admitted Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor could start for Scotland in their Russia 2018 qualifier with Slovakia - despite being overlooked for the initial squad.

McGregor was called up at the weekend after his Parkhead team mates Stuart Armstrong and Scott Brown were both forced to withdraw due to injuries.

The 24-year-old has been ignored all year even though he helped Brendan Rodgers's side go undefeated domestically and land a treble in the 2016/17 campaign.

Read more: Celtic ace Leigh Griffiths would smash it in the Premier League, says Mark McGhee

However, former Hoops boss Strachan, whose side has to beat Jan Kozak's team to keep their hopes of finishing runners-up in Group F and clinching a play-off spot alive, has stressed he has a chance of featuring.

And he revealed how Rodgers had contacted him after he had drafted the Glaswegian in to the squad tell him he could do a job for Scotland despite his lack of international experience.

Strachan said: “Brendan texted me at the weekend just after I brought Callum in and told me ‘he will never let you down’. I understand that.

"Just because he hasn’t been in the initial squad, that doesn’t mean he can’t be involved. He has been in and out of the Celtic team, but when he gets in he scores.”

Read more: Lubo Moravcik reckons Leigh Griffiths is Scotland's crucial player...but Marek Hamsik will be the main man at Hampden

Meanwhile, Strachan has played down the loss of Armstrong and Brown – by stressing they were not irreplaceable like Sergio Aguero or Lionel Messi.

The Celtic midfielders have been important for their country in the victories over Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta and the draw with England this year.

However, Strachan stressed he has strength in depth in their position and revealed the individuals who were set to replace them at were all confident they could come in and make his side perform even better.

He said: “If we spoke to the players after the games we’ve played recently and said to (Matt) Ritchie, (Barry) Bannan and another couple of lads: ‘Do you think you would have made the team better?’ They would all have said ‘aye’.

Read more: Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery ruled out of Celtic Champions League double header​

“If we had asked Ryan Fraser ‘do you think you would have made the team better?’ he would have said ‘yep, I’m not saying I am better than anyone, but I can do that’.

“It’s like Liam Cooper. He is the captain of his club (Leeds United) and you saw what happened when lost him, they have been affected by that. If you say to him ‘do you think you can do that as good as him?’ He would say ‘yes, I can do that’.

“That’s fine. I don’t think there is an inferiority complex with any of them, because I don’t think we have players who are that far ahead.

"It is different if it is Messi. If you asked a player ‘do you want to step in for Messi?’ they would say 'no, I don’t want to step in for Messi!'

Read more: Celtic kid Kundai Benyu pledges international future to Zimbabwe​

“If you asked them ‘do you want to step in for Aguero?’ They would say ‘no, I don’t want to do that either, I’d rather just sit on the bench and watch’. So we’re not there, no.

“I’ve got to say that if we can handle things better in one area of the team than others it’s in midfield. We’ve got good characters in here, some really good characters.”

Strachan, who will also be without Ritchie as the Newcastle United player withdrew on Sunday evening after being named Man of the Match in the Barclays Premier League game against Liverpool, has named Darren Fletcher as Brown’s replacement as squad captain.

However, he stated that did not necessarily mean that Fletcher, the Stoke City player, would automatically replace Brown in his team in the meeting with Jan Kozak’s side.

“It will be Darren around the place,” he said. “But there are usually about three or four guys who I go to and say ‘look I’m thinking about chucking that in today, or trying that, what do you think?’”