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Scotland will play on front foot, vows Burley

* Ewan Murray

George Burley is planning to adopt a more attacking style than that practised by his immediate predecessors as Scotland manager.

A lack of available talent and - following the turbulent Berti Vogts regime - poor morale were used as explanations by Alex McLeish and Walter Smith for regularly emphasising safety first with their Scottish sides. Burley, though, is keen to see the Scots play on the front foot in what may represent the continuing evolution of the international team.

James McFadden will be handed a free role in support of Kenny Miller for tonight's friendly with Northern Ireland at Hampden Park while James Morrison and Barry Robson are expected to be deployed as wingers. Such invention is perhaps not an alien concept for a home match but Burley insists Scotland can be just as enterprising in World Cup qualifiers away to Macedonia and Iceland next month.

"I haven't played James and Kenny together before but I know they are capable of combining well," said Burley, who was denied McFadden's services for Scotland's last two games because of injury.

"More of an attacking style means utilising James McFadden in the right way. We have more options now going forward. If it works well against Northern Ireland, we will use it against Macedonia."

The former Ipswich Town, Heart of Midlothian and Southampton manager is attempting to secure his first win in international football but history is against him - it is 12 years since Scotland won a friendly game at Hampden.

Burley believes Scotland's midfield remains their greatest asset, despite the fact that a limited number of goals have arrived from that area. The first-choice midfielders - Barry Ferguson, Paul Hartley, Darren Fletcher and Scott Brown - have scored only eight times from a combined 107 caps.

"An extra goal or two from midfield could make all the difference to World Cup qualification," said Burley, obviously aware of such a damning statistic. Ferguson and Hartley will miss out tonight due to injury while Burley has highlighted the value of Fletcher, despite the 24-year-old's bit-part status at Manchester United.

"With him being at United, with the squad they have got, you can understand Darren not playing every game," Burley added. "He has handled it very well, his game has not suffered and he is an outstanding talent. He is one of my first picks because of his ability."

A longer-term injury worry is the Tottenham Hotspur full-back Alan Hutton, who has a foot injury and is unlikely to recover fitness in time for the Macedonia and Iceland encounters.

"His chances are less than 50-50," explained Burley. "He has chipped a bone and has already had a month's rest. I'll give him every possibility and he is a fit lad. We would have to make sure he is fit. He is a top player for us and we would hang out until the last possible moment for him."

Northern Ireland, who will be backed by about 7,000 travelling fans in Glasgow, are without the injured Peter Thompson, Keith Gillespie, Kyle Lafferty, Aaron Hughes and George McCartney. Rangers-bound Steven Davis will play, with his international manager, Nigel Worthington, surprised that Fulham are willing to part with the midfielder.

"Apart from David Healy, Steven has been our most influential player," Worthington said. "To be honest I don't know why he can't get into the Fulham side. If the move comes off, he will be a fantastic acquisition for Rangers."

Scotland (probable 4-4-1-1) Gordon; Graham Alexander, Weir, McManus, Naysmith; Morrison, Fletcher, Brown, Robson; McFadden; Miller.

Northern Ireland (possible 4-4-2) Taylor; Baird, Craigan, Evans, McAuley; Davis, Brunt, Clingan, Shiels; Feeney, Healy.

Referee N Vollquartz (Den)

Taken from the Guardian/Observer

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