PROMOTING two Celtic players to the Scotland side this year has helped to resurrect faint hopes of reaching the Russia 2018 finals.

At the same time, it has gone a long way to keeping Gordon Strachan in a job.

Will, though, overlooking another member of the Glasgow club’s all-conquering side now bring an end to both the national team’s bid to qualify for the World Cup next summer and the manager’s four and a half year tenure?

Strachan’s unwillingness to call up Callum McGregor, a stand-out performer for Brendan Rodgers’s charges for some time now, not once but twice has, with good reason, overshadowed the build-up to the match against Lithuania.

It is not just the surprising omission of the midfielder which has baffled and irked members of the Tartan Army ahead of the crucial Group F encounter in the LFF Stadium here in Vilnius this evening.

No, it is the individuals who have been chosen ahead of him. Nobody is denying that Barry Bannan, Ryan Fraser, John McGinn, Matt Phillips, Matt Ritchie and Robert Snodgrass are fine professionals who will serve their country well if called upon.

But are any of them in the same sort of form as McGregor? Are they playing at the same rarefied level on a consistent basis? Will they make the same sort of impact if they are given a run-out? The answer to all of those questions for many is a resounding no.

Not even having the 24-year-old in the 26 man squad is downright bizarre. The dynamic midfielder, who has proved repeatedly he can play in a variety of positions with equal effectiveness, can transform a match when he is brought off the bench. He has done so on numerous occasions for Celtic.

Wouldn’t he be the ideal man to turn to if Scotland are needing a lift and a goal in the second half of the meeting with Edgaras Jankauskas’s men tonight?

There is even a strong case for having McGregor, even though he has still to be capped at full international level, in the starting line-up. Robert Snodgrass hasn’t played a club game in over three months due to his move to West Ham turning awry. Does he really have more to offer than his compatriot at this present moment in time?

Even James Morrison, who was called up on Monday as a replacement for the injured Tom Cairney, could have no complaints about the versatile footballer being preferred to him just now.

The 31-year-old has been an exceptional servant for Scotland and possesses the intelligence and technical expertise to unlock an opposition defence. He has, though, been out injured and has been featured in just two first team games with West Brom this term.

Mark McGhee, the Scotland assistant manager, argued this week that they had an obligation to remain loyal to the men who had been involved in this campaign from the outset. But surely they have a duty to select the best players available to them?

The national manager has repeatedly bemoaned the lack of Scottish players involved in the Champions League. But McGregor is. His absence here makes little sense.

Having said all that, Scotland still have enough experience and quality to beat Lithuania in this away fixture and keep alive their slender hopes of finishing second in their section and securing a play-off place.

Griffiths has made a huge difference to his country since establishing himself as first choice striker. The two free-kicks he scored in the 2-2 draw with England at Hampden in June will have done wonders for his self-belief on a stage he had failed to score on in 12 appearances.

Stuart Armstrong, his Celtic team mate, also adds another dimension to their play with his composure and creativity. Yes, he has struggled of late and has lost his place in the Celtic team as a result. But signing a new contract will have settled him. He certainly looked far better against St. Johnstone.

The former Dundee United man was nothing short of a revelation on his Scotland debut in the vital 1-0 win over Slovenia back in March and Strachan will be hoping he produces the same sort of commanding display if he gives him the nod to partner Brown in the middle of the park.

On the right wing, Strachan can pick Matt Phillips or Matt Ritchie, who are playing regularly in the Barclays Premier League for West Brom and Newcastle United respectively, if he decides to drop Snodgrass.

But if Scotland lose or even draw this game the 60-year-old, whose position with three qualifying games remaining will become untenable, will be quickly reminded of his refusal to pick Callum McGregor and may come to regret it.