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Tom Cairney to arrest Scotland's slump

Tuesday 14th March 2017
Tom Cairney is the heartbeat of his side. His craft, guile, and fight have led Fulham to 7th in the table, and two points off 6th. It was about time he received a call-up to the national team.

It has been an extremely underwhelming start to World Cup qualification for Gordon Strachan's Scotland. One win in four - that against a woeful Malta - has left them languishing in fifth place. They are behind Lithuania, Slovenia and Slovakia. They were thumped 3-0 by England back in November, and suffered a demoralising 3-0 loss at Slovakia, and drew a must-win match against Lithuania, at home.

It simply isn't good enough for a nation with rich footballing history. Scotland has cut a static, lethargic and enthused outfit on several occasions under Strachan, desperately craving a spark. The Tartan Army need a player capable of winning matches: at international level, that makes all the difference.

Wales, with superstar Gareth Bale will always have a match-winner on the pitch. There is always the potential that they will clinch three points, even if they aren't playing well. An inviting cross by the Welshman led to an own-goal in their round of 16 victory over Northern Ireland - up until that point, Wales had not played particularly well, but that moment of pure quality was enough to see them reach the quarter-finals.

Of course, Cairney is not in the same category as Bale - one plies his trade at the biggest club in the World, whilst the other plies his trade at Fulham - but Cairney is made of the same winning fibres.

He has nine goals and nine assists in the league this season; can score vital goals, but also turn provider. Tom Cairney is equally gifted and this balance is needed at Scotland.

The Scottish boss knows this, it seems. Speaking after his press conference, he said this of the 26-year-old:

"Tom Cairney was the best man on the pitch at St James' Park (a 3-1 win for Fulham), but that was no surprise - he has been the best man on the pitch on many occasions"

And it's true. Cairney has been one of the best players in the Championship this season.

With Scotland suffering from a chronic shortage of genuinely attacking gifted players, Cairney has the potential to fill this void and become the goal-scorer and playmaker Strachan covets.

Scotland host Canada in a friendly, followed by a crucial match against Slovenia. If Scotland can clinch three points against Slovenia, they will trail them by just one point: Slovenia currently sit second in the table. Lose, however, and the gap between themselves and Slovenia becomes seven points. Such margins are seldom recovered in international football.

All is not lost, currently, for Scotland. They still have the potential to sneak their way into a play-off spot. But, they must win against Slovenia. And if they must win, Strachan must select players who possess the necessary qualities to win matches.

Tom Cairney has never been capped at senior level. If he is given that first cap against Canada, and if his second comes against Slovenia, he could be the difference between a World Cup campaign that is beginning to pick up momentum and yet another disappointing failure for the Scots.
Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97

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