GORDON STRACHAN has revealed that key players have refused his offer to rest in advance of the crucial European qualifier against Gibraltar on Sunday.

The Scotland squad play Northern Ireland tonight in preparation for the match against the Group D minnows with Strachan concerned that such as Steven Naismith and Shaun Maloney, who has flown in from the USA, may need a break before a contest that simply has to be won if the national team has any hopes of qualifying for France next year.

Strachan said of the Chicago Fire midfielder: "He has just flown in from California. You say to him: 'Do you want a wee rest?' But he's not interested. I said the same thing to Steven Naismith because he's been doing a lot of playing and travelling in the Europa League with Everton. He was in Kiev last week and then away to QPR at the weekend.

"I asked him if he wanted two days off to spend at home with his family because I thought it would be beneficial. But again, he was not interested. He just wanted to come up and be part of the group.

"I asked James Forrest if he wanted a break. He said: 'No, I'm fine'."

The Scotland manager said the keenness of the squad had even impacted on training. He wanted a session with 16 players but 17 declared themselves fit.

"On the Sunday night I was asking for somebody to do me a favour and ask for a rest but none of them wanted to. In the end I had to remind Jordan Rhodes that he's had a knock and that he could do with sitting this one out," said the manager with a smile.

His message of a tight squad with a commitment to the cause was echoed by Naismith, the Everton forward, who pointed out that group was united and the strongest he had been involved with since he joined the national team in 2007.

'I wouldn't say it was as tight as it is now," he said of previous eras. "Everyone wasn't as open as they are now. I wouldn't say there were cliqués and people not talking to each other but the Rangers boys and the Celtic boys did tend to stay together. It's just who you are familiar with.

"Now everybody is just a bit more open. So many more of us get on and will be texting each other outwith football."

Naismith was filling the media slot normally occupied by the captain but laughed off suggestions he would lead the team out tonight. The two most likely candidates are Scott Brown, the Celtic captain, and Darren Fletcher, of West Bromwich Albion.

Strachan admitted he had still to make the decision over his skipper, adding: "I've got a hard decision to make. I'm trying to make sure everybody gets involved in the games. I want to be fair on the club managers.

"At this moment, I haven't picked the team so I can't pick a captain. Once I pick the team, I'll have an idea. I know the system, the players know the system.

"I have other decisions to make. Who's the goalie? Who's going to be the main one up front? Who's going to be the wide players? They are smashing decisions to have to make."

He praised Fletcher for making the tough decision to leave Manchester United to continue his career.

"You can, when you leave Man United, go on and create a new career for yourself. Some find it difficult, some get on with it," he said.

Strachan, who left United in 1989 as a 32-year-old but went on to play for five years with Leeds United and win a league title, said: "I got on all right after I left Man United. I had good players around me and good people.

"Darren has got a hunger and a pride. It's not easy to leave United. It's one of the best clubs in the world, if not the best. So there's a point when you think: 'Is this it?'. But then you realise there's more to life and your career can continue. There is another world out there."