DUNDEE UNITED pair Ryan Gauld and John Souttar will be free to take on the Auld Enemy later this month after the two talented Tannadice teenagers were omitted from Billy Stark's under-21 squad which will meet the Netherlands in Paisley.
While the showdown with the Dutch on May 28 is in the must-win category for Stark's side if they are to progress in the competition - in fact all three of their remaining matches are - on this occasion the under-19 elite round match with England in Burton-upon-Trent has taken precedence, particularly as neither player has to date fully established himself at the older age group.
Stark said last night that the pair would take more out of being involved with Ricky Sbragia's group, where they will be joined by the likes of Celtic's Liam Henderson and Swansea's Adam King, while the absence of Gauld was more than compensated by the inclusion of Stefan Scougall of Sheffield United.
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He also said he hoped the under-21s could feed off promising Scotland results at both younger and older age groups. While Gordon Strachan's A squad have won four of their last five matches, a famous 1-0 victory over Germany means that Mark Wotte's under-17 group need just a point from their final group tie with Switzerland to book a place in the European Championship semi-finals in Malta.
"I spoke to Jackie McNamara last week and said that if we needed Ryan Gauld to start and he'd played in the previous half-dozen games then it would have been a no-brainer," said Stark. "However, I think he'll benefit more at the moment by playing for the under-19s under Ricky Sbragia.
"I usually dodge the question about must-win games," he added, "but, in terms of qualifying, this is a game that we need to win - and the two after that as well. There was always going to be very little margin for error in this group and to win these three games is going to be tough but we just need to take this next one first.
"There is work being done at younger levels there which is going to ensure my job is going to be easier. If we can have reasonable relative success at the younger age groups it will help when they become under-21 players. For me it is all positive."