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It's a lesson that you learn in boys' football. You might be the best trainer, you might turn up every week, you might even bring an apple every day for the coach. But, and this is a universal truth, that coach will always reserve the right to pick his best players – even if that proves to be an unpopular decision at times.

In recent days, there has been something of a kerfuffle over Steve Clarke's decision to draft in Norwich City goalkeeper Angus Gunn to the Scotland squad he named officially today for the Euro 2024 double-header against Cyprus and Spain. There has also been a perceived lack of fairness to keepers such as Zander Clark of Hearts and Motherwell's Liam Kelly who have bided their time while Allan McGregor, Craig Gordon and David Marshall jostled for the No.1 jersey.

Now that the trio are either unavailable or retired from international football, the logic goes, the nod should go to Clark or Kelly. 

Gunn, you will recall, is the son of former Aberdeen and Norwich goalkeeper, Bryan, who played six times for Scotland. He also happens to be a pretty good keeper, himself.

The 27-year-old has been receiving a degree of stick on social media for liking a historical tweet at the time of Euro 2020 which read: "Football = Coming home, Scotland = Going Home". A former England Under-21, who was born in Norwich, he has not exactly been enthusiastic about signing up for the home of his father's birth for a number of years.


But is that really a crime? It's fairly safe to assume that Gunn was being advised by someone on keeping his options open. At one point big things were expected of him as a Manchester City youth team player who had turned in some impressive performances during a loan spell at Norwich. Those displays persuaded Southampton to pay £13.5m for his services in 2018. But that valuation would have undoubtedly been nowhere near as high had Gunn already declared for Scotland at that time. His England status made him both a lucrative and desirable proposition for seller and buyer.

Furthermore, he is also not the only member of the Scotland squad who took their time over the decision to switch allegiances. The Southampton striker Che Adams needed some persuading before he threw his lot in with Clarke's men. Now, it feels as if he is very much part of the furniture. 

In any case, there have been plenty of Scottish-born players who have stuck two fingers up at their own country over recent years. Ryan Fraser springs to mind, among a number of others. In 2018, James McArthur, the Crystal Palace midfielder, asked to be left out of Alex McLeish's squad with the then Scotland boss observing: “It's disappointing to lose him but it's his personal decision. He has not said he has hung up his boots for Scotland but that's the way he feels at the moment." At that time there was a slew of players withdrawing from squads with regularity and – while he was not the only one – it was something that continued with Fraser.

In 2021, the Newcastle winger pulled out of a squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Denmark citing a calf injury before he was later pictured training with his club. It was something that irked Clarke considerably and he was quick to draw a comparison with Lyndon Dykes who had made himself available for his country despite clearly struggling with an injury.

“Lyndon Dykes came to play when his ankle was hanging off,” said Clarke. “He came and he tried a training session. He wanted to fly to Moldova just to watch. He joined us in Glasgow and took part in a training session and five minutes into the session you could see the boy was injured. But he didn’t want to admit it because he wanted to be part of the team and he wanted to play against Denmark. That’s the type of player I want.”

Commitment, understandably, is something that Clarke values preciously and as Gunn revealed recently he has had several conversations with the Scotland manager regarding his decision to switch allegiances. If there was any doubt in Clarke's mind about Gunn's attitude he would not have bothered to call him up to the squad for those qualifiers later this month.

In any case, if he subsequently proves to be a disruptive influence (and, frankly, why would he?) what do you think Clarke might do? Keep him around the squad?