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Naismith believes Stark can join former charges in graduating

Billy Stark is the forgotten candidate for the Scotland job.

Steven Naismith has great respect for Billy Stark
Steven Naismith has great respect for Billy Stark

Gordon Strachan and Joe Jordan are considered the front runners, while the likes of Alex McLeish, Kenny Dalglish and Owen Coyle have all been linked with the vacancy. Stark is too unassuming to feel snubbed, but he can also make a more lasting impact on the decision-making process. No other manager will be allowed a dress rehearsal.

Stark has already become acquainted with the compromises that have to be made, since a series of players pulling out of his squad for tomorrow night's friendly in Luxembourg have led to some resourceful thinking. Darren Barr of Hearts and Murray Davidson, the St Johnstone midfielder, were added yesterday, while the likes of Leigh Griffiths, Liam Kelly and Andrew Shinnie had already been drafted in. The squad is essentially a Clydesdale Bank Premier League select, but Stark has worked with many of the players during his time as Scotland under-21 manager.

"Although he maybe hasn't been talked about, I'm sure the people that make the decision will need to think about him," said Steven Naismith, the Scotland attacker. "There has been a progression in terms of what's happening at under-21 level. We have pushed further and further forward under his leadership. That is going to go in his favour. This is a chance for him to show his managerial skills.

"When I was in the Under-21s, the biggest thing for me was that he treated you like a professional footballer and a man. He didn't talk down to you as if you were a young boy or anything like that. Billy was a great player in his day and he has a lot of experience. I would say his man-management and the way he treated you were the things I took away from it."

Naismith was suspended for Scotland's last two games, in Wales and Belgium, so had to watch in frustration as the team faltered to such an extent that Craig Levein subsequently lost his job. He is at a loss to explain why the squad has underperformed in this campaign, but the arrival of new players will at least provide a fresh urgency and ambition to the squad.

"We've got young boys who are getting rewarded for what they've done in the last 12 to 18 months," Naismith said. "They are going to come in and be enthusiastic about wanting to play. We're confident going into the game. Small things in [qualifying] games didn't go our way, we've maybe not taken chances when we've been on top, in games when we've been winning we've not had the experience to sit in and weather a storm. We have underachieved so far and it's now for the players to improve that in the remainder of the campaign."

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