Scotland’s loss in Blackpool’s gain

Matt Phillips
Matt Phillips
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IAN Holloway reckons Scotland’s loss could be Blackpool’s gain.

Matt Phillips has been forced to pull out of international duty with Craig Levein’s side in Slovenia tomorrow because of a hamstring injury.

Instead he will receive treatment at Squires Gate, and now has a much better chance of being fit for Pool’s showdown with play-off rivals Hull at Bloomfield Road on Friday.

With centre-back Craig Cathcart missing Northern Ireland’s friendly against Norway, also suffering from a sore hamstring, the Seasiders manager can relax in the knowledge that two key players will be rested ahead of the Hull test.

Holloway said: “The Scottish lads (Phillips and Matt Gilks) would have got back from Slovenia at about 7am on Thursday and so couldn’t have trained that day – and a Thursday is the most important day of the week in terms of preparation.

“We’d have had to get them in on Friday morning to assess them, and that would have been a nightmare given that we are playing that evening.”

Gilks has travelled to Slovenia but Holloway added: “He’s a keeper, so his preparation is different. We can get away with him not being around Thursday because we don’t work on shape or pattern with Matt – his is a different type of training.”

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Danny Wilson is in action for Scotland’s Under-21s tomorrow in an important European Championship qualifier against Holland. That game is being played at St Mirren, so again the disruption for Pool is minimal.

It is Phillips’ withdrawal which will create most publicity, especially after the furore which surrounded his call-up.

The Seasiders winger pledged his future to Scotland just months after playing for England in the Under-20 World Cup. Holloway said he was upset that England were losing such a fine young player, and blamed the FA for not giving Phillips a chance at under-21 level.

Phillips, who missed Saturday’s win at Bristol City because of his hamstring, would have made his senior international bow in Slovenia but was ruled out after being assessed by Scotland’s medical team.

Levein’s assistant Peter Houston said: “It is obviously a shame that Matty isn’t fit but that’s the way it is.”

Any England fans who hope this might lead to a change of mind by Phillips are likely to be disappointed.

The Pool star has lodged his change of allegiance with FIFA and yesterday took part in a photoshoot for Scotland’s new away kit before returning to Blackpool.

Phillips said of his switch of allegiances: “I was just fed up being overlooked by England and not getting the right recognition I felt I deserved for my performances.

“So I’m grateful for the opportunity to make myself available for internationals with Scotland

“Even if England asked me to play for their 21s, I had made up my mind. This wasn’t a last-minute decision. I’ve been talking to Mick Oliver and Craig Levein for the best part of a year and a half. I fully believe it’s the right decision.

“I believe that one day maybe I would have played for England. But I’m not looking at that now. I spoke to Stuart Peace because it had to come from me. I told him I wanted to play for Scotland.”

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