THE task would have been undertaken in offices and pubs across the country in the days leading up to Saturday night.

How hard could it be? Pick a Scotland team that would be able to beat Cyprus at home.

Going through the side, there were some names that were always going to be on the team sheet, while other positions required a bit more thought, as did the formation.

There was one spot that was trickiest of all to fill. Striker.

You stared at the five names - Eamonn Brophy, Lewis Morgan, Johnny Russell, Marc McNulty and Oliver Burke - and hoped a sixth would somehow appear.

That was it, though. Those were the options in the squad.

It was in Brophy that boss Steve Clarke put his faith at Hampden and that was no surprise, really.

His 12 goals this season were crucial to Kilmarnock, none more so than his final strike as he converted from the spot to clinch victory over Rangers on the last day of the Premiership at Rugby Park.

That goal was enough to send Kilmarnock into the Europa League next term, but, right now, Brophy isn't the man to fire Scotland to the European Championships.

For a 23-year-old making his international debut, Brophy didn't actually play that badly on Saturday night, although scoring chances were hard to come by.

He was clearly eager to impress and while there would have been nerves, he didn't seem fazed by the occasion or the task.

His efforts, in terms of his running and his movement off the ball, went unrewarded and it perhaps summed up his night that it was the man that replaced him, Burke, that would net a dramatic winner for Scotland.

The fact that it was to Burke that boss Clarke had to turn was a sign of just how short he is of genuine centre-forward options right now.

Brophy has time on his side to develop into an international class forward but neither he nor the likes of Morgan or McNulty can be relied on during this campaign.

Russell is older and more established, but there was no clamour for him to start amongst the Tartan Army and questions remain over just where Burke's best position is and how he fits into any side, let alone the national team.

It is not that long ago since Scotland fans were cursing the lack of options at the other end of the park but the emergence of Scott McKenna, David Bates and John Souttar under Alex McLeish has given Clarke a more solid foundation upon which to build.

Midfield still remains the strongest area of the team and there were a couple of combinations of three central players that could have been selected against Cyprus.

Wide in the final third, Ryan Fraser is now one of the first names in the side after a superb season and the 25-year-old is only going to get better as he makes a real name for himself in the Premier League.

There will be pressure on him, and James Forrest on the opposite flank, to chip in with goals going forward for Scotland.

With such limited resources through the middle, Clarke needs his wide-men, and the likes of Callum McGregor, chipping in with strikes.

That would get Scotland by, but it wouldn't solve the issue of where our next No.9 is coming from.

Only time will tell what the future holds for Leigh Griffiths but there are few others knocking at the door, with Steven Fletcher and Matt Phillips surely now out of the international picture.

Oli McBurnie seems the most likely after 24 goals for Swansea this term and he could be an option.

In the 21s, Everton kid Fraser Hornby has a good record at that level but is untested and needs first team football to establish himself.

The lack of goals and talent is a problem for Clarke. It is not one that looks easily solved, though.


IT is not that long ago since the decision on whether to start Andrew Robertson or Kieran Tierney for Scotland could have been made on the flip of a coin.

Now, there is only one outcome every time. The shirt, and the armband, belongs to Robertson.

That is no sleight on Tierney and there is nothing to be ashamed about being behind a player that came within 90 minutes of becoming a Premier League winner before joining that rare band of Scots to have won the Champions League.

Once the pair were neck and neck in terms of their ability and their potential. Tierney has continued to improve and impress, but his left-back rival has done so at an even greater rate.

While Robertson has been making a name for himself in England, Tierney has written his into the history books as an integral part of the treble Treble winners at Parkhead.

Tierney has all the tools and attributes to play in the Premier League and working in that elite environment would only bring him on even further as a player.

Given what Celtic could achieve in the next couple of years, the lure of staying at his boyhood heroes is clear and understandable.

At 22, he has time on his side and there is no rush for him to leave. But if he really wants to be the best he can be for club and country, Tierney surely know he will need to move on from Celtic sooner rather than later.

Robertson has kicked on and thrived and his example is the one for Tierney to follow in the coming years.