NEWS of Allan McGregor’s retirement from international football presumably went down like a lead balloon at Mount Florida. Only three weeks ago, when asked specifically about exactly this scenario arising on the back of his recent run-in with the SFA’s disciplinary department for a studs-up challenge on Aberdeen’s Lewis Ferguson, Alex McLeish had spoken in confident tones about how the goalkeeper was “bigger” than withdrawing his services from the international team.

There was, of course, no mention of that affair when it emerged yesterday that he was retiring from a Scotland career spanning 12 years with 42 appearances for his country to his name and 16 clean sheets. Perhaps the timing was purely co-incidental - international breaks certainly are like gold dust when you consider the beaten-up bodies of thirtysomething players keen to prolong their careers at the top level.

But the fact something between then and now seems to have changed so dramatically will only serve to remind everyone at the SFA how they are always at the mercy of the goodwill of our best players.

Okay, so the association and McGregor have a bit of history, due to his banning in the wake of the “Boozegate” affair under the chaotic reign of George Burley. And McGregor is hardly the first and won’t be the last Old Firm player to turn their back on their country.


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From Andy Goram – who said he wasn’t “mentally attuned” to play for Scotland in the mid-90s, to Scott Brown – who retired twice for Scotland, playing some of his best football for Celtic in the interim – players at the Glasgow giants often seem to have a different relationship with the national team as their peers. Maybe they don’t need it as much as they have enough adulation and limelight as it is.

What is undeniable, though, is that at the age of 37, McGregor was winning new friends and admirers with the level of his play this season – regardless of the odd naughty off-the-ball incident.

It wasn’t a surprise that he was an ever-present in international matches under his old Rangers manager – he had fully earned that position and proved invaluable to our qualification for the Nations League play-offs on many occasions, not least that remarkable late save against Israel.

The national team, of course, will go on without him – in the short term, out to Kazakhstan and San Marino. Scott Bain is a capable young goalkeeper who for now has shrugged off the challenge of veteran Craig Gordon to make himself Celtic’s No 1 while Liam Kelly and Zander Clark are other options worth exploring by Alex McLeish. And in a way, the goalkeeper was right to claim that the start of a new qualifying campaign is as good time as any to step down. Allan McGregor's parting gift to Scotland was the save which gave us a shot at Euro 2020 qualification but McLeish is entitled to feel put out that he no longer wants to be part of it.