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Are Scotland’s Striking Options Starting To Look Up?

Date: 16th January 2020

For far too long Scotland have struggled to find a few different strong options to lead our line. But that might change in 2020. 

Oli McBurnie has often looked out of his depth in a Dark Blue jersey. But I think that might change if he’s given more chances to shine just maybe not as a true number nine. 

The £20m hitman has started to look the part in the Premier League with Sheffield United. He has scored four times in his twenty league appearances (9 starts/11 as sub). His recent form should give Tartan Army fans some encouragement as he has scored three in his last ten outings. 

In the Blades most recent fixture, McBurnie played in a two man attack. The Scot scored the games winner but it was his all-round play that really impressed. Instead of being used as some sort of target-man he started to come deeper, turn and link up play. That position allows him to play in runners and create new angles in the oppositions half. 

Now Scotland boss Steve Clarke should be able see that he has the squad that could get a lot more out of Oli. 

You could use him as a solo striker but making sure that one of the wingers is always playing off him. In James Forrest and Ryan Fraser we have wide-men that can run in behind defences and take chances. We also have a midfielder in Ryan Christie that can also get beyond a striker that comes slightly deep and turns on the ball. 

Personally I don’t see any reason not to at least give McBurnie the chance to have more license to do what he wants to do up-top instead of just trying to make him a battering ram. 

We could also think about playing him as a number ten and have another forward playing in-front of him. 

That man could be Dundee United’s Lawrence Shankland

There’s no doubt that the twenty-four year old is prolific in the Scottish Championship. He’s grabbed twenty-two strikes in nineteen games this term! But could he make the step up? 

Well Clarke took a chance and called up the striker for the games against Russia and San Marino in October. 

He did well in both those appearances. He looked decent on the ball, made intelligent runs and was hungry to prove himself. He was rewarded with his first international goal against San Marino. 

Scotland midfielder John McGinn scored a hat-trick against San Marino and afterward the Aston Villa man praised Shankland: 

“I’m beaming, delighted. I’ve been watching Lawrence Shankland in training and learning how to finish!

Shankland might be a more natural goalscorer and he could also flourish playing alongside McBurnie, if Clarke felt brave enough to go two up-top against certain opponents.

If Steve is looking for more experience leading the line then Hearts man Steven Naismith has already shown his worth in his performance against Kazakhstan. He’s a forward that will work his socks off and run defences into the ground. 

The thirty-three year old has scored ten times for Scotland in his fifty-one caps. He’s more in the mould of a Kenny Miller, the last Scotland hitman that really proved himself consistently at that level. 

Naismith had plenty of problems with injuries in 2019. If he’s to become our striking stalwart then he’ll need to stay fit in 2020. 

Then we’ve got Leigh Griffiths

The Celtic marksman was just starting to get the hang of international football when he had to take a prolonged leave of absence due to his personal issues. 

Leigh is still trying to reach full fitness. He has been restricted to playing just eighteen times this term and he’s only scored three times. Very much playing second fiddle to Odsonne Edouard at The Hoops and also has to fight youngsters Vakoun Bayo and new signing Patryk Kimala for minutes on the field. 

The big plus Griffiths has at his club is the fact he’s done it before and has the goalscoring instincts that matter when it counts. 2020 could be huge for him as he looks to resurrect his career. If he’s to become fourth or third choice then he might be better served leaving on loan for the remainder of this campaign. 

If he can rediscover his 2017-18 form then he’ll be a shoe-in for Scotland. 

So that’s four really good options if they are able to stay fit, find form and we can use them properly. 

But we could have even more. 

Lyndon Dykes, Karlan Grant and Che Adams all have the potential to be strong Scotland international forwards. If they commit to the Scottish international scene rather than the other options available to them, then they too could play a part in our future prospects. 

We also need to find out if Steven Fletcher is still a member of our pool. The experienced hitman has been banging in the goals for Sheffield Wednesday this term but hasn’t been seen in a Scotland squad since Steve Clarke took over the managerial reigns. Has Fletcher retired? We need an answer because he could offer plenty if he hasn’t. Although it won’t be until after March due to his recent injury. 

In the Under-21s we have a prospect in Fraser Hornby

The Everton youngster is currently on loan at Belgian side Kortrijk, and has scored four times in ten appearances. He’s a big, strong forward and would offer us a different option in the final third. Probably still too raw for the senior side but that could change if he becomes a regular starter in Belgium during the second half of the season. 

Hornby certainly seems to be one for the future. 

So here’s hoping as our play-off for Euro 2o2o approaches, Scotland can have the firepower in place to get us to our first major tournament since France 98! 

I’m at least a wee bit more optimistic about our chances! 

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