Scotland midfielder Stuart Armstrong has said he is grateful to have had a call-up from Steve Clarke for the World Cup qualifiers despite not playing for his club this season.
Armstrong is part of the squad preparing to face Israel at Hampden on Saturday, and the Faroe Islands three days later, but a calf injury picked up in the summer meant he’s yet to kick a ball for Southampton in the Premiership.
The former Celtic midfielder, who has 28 international caps, admitted he wasn’t expecting to be brought straight back into the group, but feels he can make a contribution in two games that could be massive in the campaign to reach Qatar 2022.
“I was a little bit surprised but really grateful,” he said.
“Of course you want to come into these squads with match fitness and sharpness and I’m still feeling my way back but I’m feeling good and ready to help the team when asked.”
Armstrong said that the call showed the faith Scotland manager Clarke had in him.
“It’s nice [that it shows] his belief in me as a football player,” he said. “I’ve had limited game time over the last wee while so to be in the squad makes me very grateful to the manager and for his belief in me.”
Southampton managers Ralph Hasenhuttl said last week that he didn’t think Armstrong was ready to report for international duty but Armstrong says the pair have had talks and agree the trip is best for all concerned.
“I think when you get the call-up you always want to come to Scotland,” he said. “I had an honest conversation with the manager down south and we talked about the benefits of coming away and continuing my training here in a competitive nature, and also the availability to play games that I’m going to get.
“We both agreed it was in my best interests, and the club’s, to be a part of the squad. I just never want to turn down an opportunity to play for Scotland.”
The attacking midfielder now has his sights set on a crucial match against an Israel side that Scotland has met on numerous occasions in recent years.
“It’s always been tight,” he said “We’ve played them a lot over the last few years so we know them well. Equally, they know us well.
“It’s always a good test and exciting game and hopefully we have the edge.
“We want to be in control of our own destiny, and having a positive result at the weekend would certainly help with that.”