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Bardsley's return gives Strachan chance to remind players of standards he expects

IT WASN'T the sort of question the Scotland manager hears every day.

STRACHAN: 'no problems with players'
STRACHAN: 'no problems with players'

Gordon Strachan was asked if he could ever imagine circumstances in which he might be found lying drunk on the floor of a casino, surrounded by £50 notes while onlookers took pictures they would later post on social media? Strachan sat back in his chair and laughed. "I played with Aberdeen: we never had £50 notes. Trust me."

No prizes for guessing the topic of conversation. Strachan named a Scotland squad yesterday which included Phil Bardsley for the first time since the Sunderland man's idiocy placed him in exactly that outrageous booze/casino/cash scenario last year. To be blunt, the episode was an example of the sort of "yob culture" Strachan has often criticised in the past, along with phone-ins, devil dugs and cans of Kestrel. Pragmatism can be a powerful thing, though, and Strachan was philosophical about Bardsley yesterday. Having had his Sunderland career resurrected the same now applies to his Scotland prospects.

"Listen, over the years in Scotland we've had off-field bits and bobs going back 40 or 50 years," said Strachan. "That can happen sometimes and actually there are less of them now. I know with the Scotland squad we have had no problems in a year. So we have these standards now and I don't have to tell anybody [how to behave].

"The standards we have set will have to be met by everybody that comes in here. That's not a threat, that's just the way we behave. I have been happy with the way they have trained, behaved and everything else. So there are no rules. I am just expecting everybody to behave like a professional football player and a good team-mate when they turn up.

"I've not got a clue what goes on [in players' off-field lives]. I only deal with what I can deal with. I can only judge people on what they do when they come along and unless there is something extraordinary that's happened then I can only deal with how the deal with me, and I have had no problems with any of the Scotland players. I think their behaviour has been wonderful . . . and I'm talking myself into a hole here because I know what's going to happen now!"

There were Aberdeen supporters bemused yesterday by the continuing absence of defender Mark Reynolds from Scotland squads. Some Kilmarnock fans were puzzled by Kris Boyd's omission, similarly Rangers supporters thought Lee Wallace worthy of inclusion. Strachan referred to none of the excluded players by name but did admit he had made a round of telephone calls to those who may have felt they had done enough to be on the flight to Warsaw.

"If they want to speak about it [in the media] they can, but there are five or six. I felt it was the right thing to do to give them a call, whether they like it or not. I'm sure they wouldn't like it but they were all understanding. I'm pleased to have that problem. It's not great making the calls but it's not like saying they are finished with a club or anything, far from it. It's just that in certain areas we are a lot stronger than others."

Reynolds and Peter Pawlett? "We take note. I was at the League Cup semi-final with St Johstone and it was a terrific tie. The Aberdeen players' performances are noted but young Andrew Robertson [the Dundee United left-back] has been called up on the strength of seven months' worth of performances rather than two or three. That's the level of consistency and hard work that you need to get in this squad."

Of the 24 players only four are with Scottish clubs: Robertson and the Celtic trio Scott Brown, Charlie Mulgrew and James Forrest. Thirteen are from the Barclays Premier League and seven from the npower Championship. In Strachan's 10 games in charge two goalkeepers have played five times each, and the current call between Hull City's Allan McGregor and Cardiff City's David Marshall is more difficult than ever.

"I'm starting to get club manager's choices now and these are big decisions, which is what management is all about. The goalkeeper is a decision I've still to make but David Marshall has been phenomenal. He has become a personality on the football field and that, when you talk about character-building, is key. If you can take knocks and come back, which David has done, it makes you a stronger personality. He's still a quiet lad off the field but he has a personality on it and that's where it counts."

Marshall was Strachan's back-up when he was manager at Celtic, behind the goalkeeper who has been recalled to the Poland squad for this friendly: the colourful Artur Boruc. "Artur was phenomenal at the time. Funnily enough the two of them are two of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League now and Boruc has been recalled to the Poland squad. Have I got any advice for the Poland manager? Don't call me whatever you do! I would phone The Samaritans right away. He used to drive people bonkers at times but there was never a dull moment when he was about."

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