PETER HOUSTON, the Scotland assistant manager, has defended the inclusion of Ian Black for tomorrow's friendly international against Australia.

The Rangers midfielder has been handed a belated call-up, alongside Leeds United's Ross McCormack and David Goodwillie of Blackburn Rovers, following a number of call-offs.

Last week Craig Levein, the Scotland manager, had explained his decision to omit Lee Wallace, the Rangers defender, from his original squad by saying that it would be "difficult" to select third division players given the calibre of opposition they would be facing each week. Houston, though, believes Black fully merits his selection.

"Ian Black was one of the best midfield players in Scotland last year," he said. "We can't forget that. Lee Wallace wasn't in the squad last week, but I think maybe Craig's words were misconstrued. Lee is a big part of Craig's plans for the squad and I think he did say that. I don't know if people thought otherwise.

"Ian is a talented player. The reason he is here is that we are looking for – and we are quite short because of the call-offs – a player who can sit and play passes, more of a defensive type. Craig Bryson was one we spoke about, but we have Charlie Adam and James Morrison, players who like to get into the box.

"We also needed somebody who could play as more of a defensive type midfield player. And this squad is short. It was quite an easy decision. Ian's name was foremost in our thoughts. He is delighted to be here, and I think he's here on merit."

Scotland's World Cup qualifying campaign begins next month and Houston saw no reason why Black would not continue to be considered for international duty. "The manager did say that Lee was still in his plans so I don't see any reason why Ian wouldn't be. Ian has played SPL football for a number of years now and every year we talk about him as being one of the best players. There was a spell there when he had to curb his enthusiasm sometimes. He has been sent off a number of times. But let's strip all that away and ask ourselves why he is in the squad. The reason is because he is talented on the ball. He can mix up passing, he can win tackles, he can spray the ball 50-60 yards. He can play it simple, and he's got a wee bit about him.

"He's a winner. I've always thought that Ian, even last year, was unlucky not to break through into the squad. When we had everybody fit, with Fletcher, Adam, Morrison and Dorrans, that's maybe why he wasn't in it last year. But Craig's rated him as a player."

Two of Black's Rangers' team-mates have not fared as well, however. Carlos Bocanegra has been omitted from the USA squad for their friendly against Mexico, while Dorin Goian was not selected for Romania's game with Slovenia.

"Goian has a big problem," said Romania manager Victor Piturca. "He's still with a team in the Scottish fourth division. Of course, I won't be picking him now."

The defender was philosophical. "It's normal that I wasn't called, I understand perfectly," he said.

"But I will never say no to Romania. If the manager calls and wants me, I will always answer the call and play with great pleasure."