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National team provides club relief for Bannan

THE date with the world champions looms.

Bannan promotes SFA's new sponsorship deal with 'Little Big Shot'
Bannan promotes SFA's new sponsorship deal with 'Little Big Shot'

The might of Germany casts its shadow over the slight figure of Barry Bannan.

Does he tremble? Does he instead watch them being beaten against Argentina and draw comfort?

"Naw, I was watching England and fell asleep," said Bannan. The trials of the Auld Enemy against Norway and the struggles of Germany, however temporary, cannot rouse the midfielder.

He has endured personal struggles and he finds reassurance in the bosom of the Scotland camp. He is a Gordon Strachan regular, he is a club irregular.

It has been a year since Bannan joined Crystal Palace and he has played 16 times for the London club. He has 17 international caps. He has been a sporadic presence at Aston Villa, his other full-time club, and has sparkled intermittently on loan at Derby County, Blackpool and Leeds United.

However, Strachan has placed his faith in midfielder and been rewarded by good performances and by gratitude from Bannan.

"It's been brilliant to have Scotland," said the 24-year-old. "Whenever the squads are getting announced, you always a wee bit worried you are not going to be involved because that is normal when you are you are not playing for your club. But the manager has shown great faith in me and every time I come away I love it.

"It's a great atmosphere and the training is brilliant. When a manager keeps bringing you into the squad, you enjoy it even more. Hopefully, if called upon on Sunday, I can do a job for him."

Bannan is a confidence player, a performer who thrives on possession and passing, so continual rebuffs in his day job can leave their mark.

"If you are not playing at club level, it starts to creep into your mind that you are not doing so well," he said. "But then you get a call-up for your country and it gives a boost again. It's brilliant and I have to thank him a lot. I've not thought about what it would be like if I didn't get called up because it hasn't happened, but I'd imagine I would be down a lot."

He comes to the Scotland camp after a turbulent season at Palace, when the resignation of Ian Holloway was followed by a period of strength under Tony Pulis. But the former Stoke City manager left just before this season started and now Neil Warnock is charged with keeping the South London side in the Barclays Premier League. The strain of scrapping for every point makes managers pragmatic and the skills of Bannan can be ignored for more defensive options.

The Scot missed out on Palace's 3-3- draw with Newcastle at the weekend and was concerned enough to have a word with Warnock. He was assured he had a place in the manager's plans and that attempts to take him on loan were rebuffed.

It increases Bannan's desire to make the most of every game and his relaxed Wednesday night will be followed by a dramatic Sunday in Dortmund. The midfielder is a strong candidate to start the game but if he misses out he will almost certainly play some part in the opening match of the Euro 2016 qualifiers. The world champions await but Bannan is sanguine about the prospect of facing a side that defeated Brazil 7-1. "I watched all of the Germany games and I saw one before the finals where they looked a bit shaky," he said. "It's easy to look at the Brazil game and think they were brilliant, but I also think Brazil were bad that night.

"They are the strongest and best team in the world at the moment, but we are on a high as well.

"We've faced really good teams such as Spain a couple of years ago and taken them all the way. We don't fear them, we are just looking forward to going out there and seeing how good they really are."

One almost has to halt the expression of "careful what you wish for" but Bannan is being bright-eyed and positive rather than deluded. He has a professional appreciation of the considerable worth of the Germans.

"There were teams in the World Cup who were relying on one player to score goals for them, whereas Germany had goals from everywhere," he said. "They strolled through the tournament and were strong in all positions and that is what we are trying to build."

He has studied Joachim Loew's side and focused on a fellow midfielder. "If I had to pick one German player I admire, it would be Toni Kroos. His passing range is unbelievable and he was the unsung hero of the World Cup. He was a big part of their attacks and how they got into opponents."

But he added: "But I like the Spanish style more than the German style." He might miss a night's sleep if he was facing La Furia Roja.

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