Taylor’s 'drive to improve' could earn him Scotland place

Taylor could replace injured captain Andy Robertson at left back against Ukraine.

Ange Postecoglou hails Greg Taylor’s drive to improve ahead of Scotland camp SNS Group

Greg Taylor could be set to play a part for Scotland in the upcoming matches against Ukraine and Republic of Ireland after an impressive start to the season with Celtic.

Ange Postecoglou has praised the left back’s commitment to self-improvement and pointed to his performances so far as proof of his talents ahead of the Nations League games.

Taylor, who has seven Scotland caps, has been competing for the left back slot with Steve Clarke’s captain Andy Robertson with Arsenal star Kieran Tierney, who he was brought in to replace at Celtic, also an option for the position.

The 24-year-old was a key member of Celtic’s league winning squad last season and has now added Champions League experience to his CV after starting both games against Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk.

The then-Kilmarnock player was 21 when he made his Scotland debut under former Rugby Park boss Steve Clarke in a 3-0 European Championship qualifying defeat in Belgium in June 2019.

And Postecoglou believes this could be a pivotal international camp for Taylor who could start with Robertson missing through injury and Tierney potentially being deployed as part of a back three.

Tierney could be a straight replacement for his Premier League counterpart after starting four of Arsenal’s last five matches, all of them victories, but his absence from Scotland’s back three in June – when he was recovering from knee surgery – was seen as a major factor in the stuttering progress.

Clarke devised his system to accommodate Tierney and Robertson in the same team and his back three lacks flexibility and drive when the Gunners defender is not there.

Six players featured in the back three during four games in June – Grant Hanley, Liam Cooper, Scott McTominay, John Souttar, Scott McKenna and Jack Hendry – and Scotland conceded seven goals.

Taylor’s form and assuredness in Champions League games could provide Clarke with the chance to reintroduce Tierney into that back division and give his former Kilmarnock player the opportunity to continue at wing-back after starting in the 4-1 win in Armenia.

Postecoglou said of his left-back’s performances: “He is going really well. He is improving, because he wants to improve.

“He is one of those players who I think maybe in the past people put in a certain box and classified as a certain kind of player or for a certain kind of level.

“But as I keep saying for all our footballers, that’s up to them to change that perception with improvement in performance and training, and everything they do, physically, mentally, on and off the pitch.

“And Greg is one of those guys, he comes in every day wanting to be better, and I think he has seen the fruits of his labour. His performances are continually improving and he has done exceptionally well for us so far this year, including in the Champions League games.

“But he’s only 24. A lot of our players’ best years are very much ahead of them. As long as they maintain that mindset of improvement, then who knows what level they can reach?

“The dangers come when they get sort of comfortable and plateau in a certain space but Greg is not one of those guys. Since I have been here, he has embraced the culture and environment and wants to be the best footballer he can be.”

With goalkeeper Craig Gordon set to shake off a knee knock, Clarke’s major decisions look to be in defence and whether to utilise Tierney and McTominay in the back three.

McKenna has played regularly for Premier League newcomers Nottingham Forest while Hanley has been a regular starter for Norwich but Hendry has not had many minutes either side of a loan move from Club Brugge to Cremonese.

Souttar and Cooper are both absent with Hibernian’s Ryan Porteous in as back-up.

Nathan Patterson looks set to feature at right wing-back after an impressive start to the season with Everton, although Aaron Hickey has also been starting regularly there for Brentford. Anthony Ralston’s performances were a major plus in June but he has largely started on the bench for Celtic this season.

Clarke has a wealth of options in midfield including Kenny McLean and Ryan Jack, who both missed the summer schedule, while Che Adams looks likely to start up front against Ukraine after hitting four goals for Southampton already.

But with three games inside a week, Clarke will need to rotate his squad for the final two Nations League games against the Republic of Ireland at Hampden and Ukraine away in Krakow.

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