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Goram glee at net gains for Scotland custodians

NOT since Jim Leighton and Andy Goram duked it out in the 1990s has there been such a competitive struggle for the Scotland goalkeeper's jersey.

Allan McGregor trains before taking to  the field in Scotland's draw with Nigeria on Wednesday. Picture: SNS
Allan McGregor trains before taking to the field in Scotland's draw with Nigeria on Wednesday. Picture: SNS

In Allan McGregor and David Marshall manager Gordon Strachan has the luxury of selecting two goalkeepers arguably in their prime.

It was McGregor who started against Nigeria on Wednesday night as Scotland stretched their unbeaten run to six matches, but there would have been few quibbles if Marshall had been given the nod instead. He, after all, is a goalkeeper who made the most saves in the Barclays Premier League in the campaign just finished and is said to be coveted by both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur following Cardiff City's relegation to the Sky Bet Championship.

McGregor also suffered disappointment in his first year in English football as Hull City lost the FA Cup final to Arsenal but it was a rare low in an otherwise impressive assimilation to football at that level.

Goram surveys the Scotland goalkeeping scene and believes it could not be better, throwing in the name of Blackpool's Matt Gilks as a third possible alternative. He believes McGregor deserves to be considered first choice for the time being but praised Marshall as a more than capable back-up.

"Scotland have got a very good squad in that regard right now," he said. "Allan McGregor has done nothing wrong to get put out of the team - he was just injured. But he's back now and he's fine. Maybe I'm biased but my opinion is that Allan's the best of the lot. But not by very much, I should add, as Marshall has been different class this season.

"Every goalkeeper wants to play and it was the same with me when Jim was playing. It's not easy when you've got two goalkeepers fighting for the same jersey. But you get judged by your club form as well. Marshall is making saves every week with Cardiff and he's been busy. It's the same with Allan at Hull. You get a lot to do so you stand out more.

"You can only really judge a goalkeeper until they get to one of the top five or six clubs. If you're at Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United or Chelsea and only have one big save to make in a game - that's the real test for any goalkeeper."

Goram made 43 appearances for Scotland, bowing out just before the 1998 World Cup when it became apparent Leighton would be first choice in France. He has suffered like the rest of the nation in the subsequent barren years and is relieved to see the recent upturn in fortunes under Strachan.

"It's been absolutely brilliant," added Goram. "I was at Coventry for six months with Strachan and he lives and breathes football, 24/7. He's infectious and that rubs off on all the players. He's got his own way of doing things and you have to buy into that, and it looks like the team has done that. He's got players playing at a good level - Scottish Premier League, English Premier League and English Championship - and we've a decent squad. I'll be disappointed if we don't qualify for Euro 2016 now so we have to keep this form going.

"It's progress. We're going in the right direction at last and we've waited a while for this. It's been hard at times but now we've turned the corner. Let's all get behind the team and Gordon Strachan. I think he's doing a great job."

Andy Goram was helping to promote a match between a team of former Old Firm players and the Royal Regiment of Scotland to raise money for veterans' care charity Erskine.

www.zeroalphafoundation.org/events.html

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