Barry Bannan believes his latest Scotland snub may have come at the ideal time.
The Sheffield Wednesday midfielder was this week back at the Owls’ Middlewood Road training ground after missing out on Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad for their Euro 2020 qualifying double-header against Cyprus and Kazakhstan.
But while the 29-year-old still harbours ambitions to add to his tally of 27 international caps, Bannan hopes to utilise the two-week international break to recover from a few injury “niggles”.
He missed Wednesday’s 2-1 loss at Blackburn Rovers due to a slight groin strain, but managed to play the full 90 minutes in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Swansea City.
“I have not spoken to him (Clarke) since the start of the season,” said Bannan. “I was on standby for the last game, I had to fill in a visa, but to be honest I need a rest.
“I shouldn’t be saying this, but I am probably quite happy not to be in, as I have a lot of niggles at the moment.
I have just had to grit my teeth and get through it. The break has come at a good time for me, I can get rested.Barry Bannan
“We have got a break now, a rest, and we can get back to full fitness. I have been struggling the last week or so, trying to get ready for the game.
“I have just had to grit my teeth and get through it. The break has come at a good time for me, I can get rested.
“But I have never ruled it (Scotland) out, if I get picked I get picked. If I don’t, I am happy playing for my club every week. As long as I am fit and playing for my club every week, that’s all that bothers me.
“I am just concentrating on my job here, if I keep performing here, hopefully I can get in. But it’s all about opinions in football. He’s the manager.”
Clarke has a number of options in central midfield with Sheffield United’s John Fleck, Stuart Armstrong, John McGinn and Kenny McLean starting for their respective teams in the Premier League last weekend and Celtic’s Callum McGregor and Rangers’ Ryan Jack both playing 90 minutes on Sunday.
Scotland – who face Cyprus on Saturday and then welcomeKazakhstan to Hampden Park next Tuesday – sit fourth in Group I with nine points from eight games and have no chance of qualifying via the traditional method.
However, they are assured of a place in the play-offs, which take place in March and offer an alternative route to what would be their first appearance in a major finals since the 1998 World Cup in France.
Bannan – whose team-mate Liam Palmer is in the Scotland squad – is not the only Owls player to benefit from the two-week break. Sam Hutchinson (calf) and Julian Borner (illness) missed the Swans match, while captain Tom Lees played his first game in 10 weeks after recovering from a hamstring injury.
“A few others are tired too, we have put a lot of effort in over the last month,” said Bannan. “There’s a few niggles in the squad, you don’t really get time to rest. So when you can, it’s nice.
“This will be the last rest we have until March. It’s a big opportunity for everyone to get right, then have a big push over the Christmas period. We would have liked to have picked up a few more points to be honest.”
Wednesday have certaly been guilty of throwing away points in the last five games, squeezed in between the two international breaks.
They conceded an 87th-minute equaliser at Cardiff City, lost at Blackburn despite taking the lead on 83 minutes, and then let in a stoppage-time equaliser to Swansea at the weekend.
Those seven dropped points would have seen the Owls – currently sat in eighth – up into second spot in the Championship, just a point behind leaders West Brom, who they play first game back after the international fortnight. Wednesday were guilty of wasting chances against fourth-placed Swansea, hitting the post twice, and fell behind to a sucker punch from Andre Ayew.
But goals from substitute Fernando Forestieri and Morgan Fox looked like earning Garry Monk’s team a deserved win until Ben Wilmot headed in a 94th-minute equaliser.
“We should have put the game beyond doubt, we had enough chances to be miles ahead,” said Bannan. “But that’s what happens in football, if you don’t take your chances you will get punished.
“It was a bit weird (to be trailing at half-time), as they never had any real chances. We had hit the post and had chances cleared off the line. On another day we could have been 3-0 up.
“There’s loads of games left, we know what we are capable of and we have nearly played everybody in this league. We know there is no-one to fear. We have had a good look at everyone and can go into the second half of the season in a positive mind.”