Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell believes his goalkeeper Liam Kelly would shine if given the opportunity to play for Scotland later this month.
Scotland boss Steve Clarke has named his squad for the European qualifiers against Cyprus and Spain, with Kelly included alongside Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark and Norwich City’s Angus Gunn, who has switched international allegiance from England.
With first choice Craig Gordon out with a long-term injury, and after David Marshall retired, the number one shirt is up for grabs and there’s no clear front-runner to take that starting role.
Kettlewell believes Kelly has shown on and off the park that he can handle the resaponsibility.
“I have absolutely no doubt or hesitation that he would acquit himself really, really well,” the Motherwell boss said.
“I didn’t know Liam particularly well before coming to the football club but everything that I’ve seen of him in terms of performance and how he handles himself as a captain and a professional is first class.
“From my point of view I think he’s the type of lad that would relish that opportunity.”
Kettlewell accepts that Kelly, Gunn and Clark all have their own cases for inclusion and expects real competition to be in the starting line-up for the Cyprus game. The manager said that Gordon’s absence will introduce a different dynamic for players who had previously been considered back-ups.
He said: “It’s an interesting situation, isn’t it?
“I know it’s Steve’s job and not mine to pick the number one for Scotland but I think with Craig Gordon being as good as he has been, guys would often go to those training camps and realise who the main guy was.
“I think it makes an interesting situation. We’ve got a guy here who is a massive influence and can rise to that challenge.
“I don’t think any of us know just who will get that number one spot. There’s three pretty good candidates there, isn’t there?
“That’s three pretty good goalkeepers and I’m sure whoever is picked will have the full support of the other two.
“I also think you’ve got someone Scotland can rely on and I include Liam Kelly in that.”
Kelly will get another chance to catch the eye when Motherwell face Rangers this weekend and Kettlewell anticipates a reall challenge when concentration will be needed from every player to help keep the goalkeeepr’s involvement to a minimum.
He said: “Potentially, what we have to choose from and the players that we have to select, I can see there being a slight change in approach.
“But it doesn’t mean we can’t be positive when we have possession of the ball.
“I always think when you play against the big two, there has to be a real mental toughness because you know at times they can have long periods on the ball.
“If you start to feel sorry for yourself and start to switch off, that’s when bad things can happen to you.
“That’s been a real clear message this week, to actually enjoy spells when you don’t have the ball because I think that can make you, one, difficult to play against, but also makes you maximise the opportunities you get when you’ve got the ball.”