Why Sheffield Wednesday's Barry Bannan is a good fit in Scotland's formation

Scotlands Barry Bannan pictured during a training session at Mar Hall, Glasgow, ahead of Fridays match with England at Wembley (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA).Scotlands Barry Bannan pictured during a training session at Mar Hall, Glasgow, ahead of Fridays match with England at Wembley (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA).
Scotlands Barry Bannan pictured during a training session at Mar Hall, Glasgow, ahead of Fridays match with England at Wembley (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA).
The last time Scotland qualified for a major finals, Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Barry Bannan was just eight years old.

This was when Craig Brown’s side reached the World Cup finals in France in 1998, but managed just a single point from their three group games to signal an early flight home for the Tartan Army.

After losing 2-1 to defending champions Brazil, the Scots eked out a 1-1 draw with Norway before surrendering 3-0 to Morocco.

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It was the year when David Beckham saw red as England exited after losing on penalties to Argentina.

Since then, Scotland have failed to qualify for the four subsequent World Cups, and have not been in the European Championship finals since Euro 96 in England when they lost 2-0 at Wembley thanks to goals from Alan Shearer and Paul Gascoigne’s famous volley.

Bannan, 27 next month, is hoping for an early birthday gift on Friday night at Wembley in a 2018 World Cup qualifier.

“We could do with a result, but the group is still poised,” said Bannan. “Everybody is beating each other.

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“Our last two results have not been good, but anything can happen in this game.

“It is a derby game and it could go either way. Everybody will be looking forward to it and if we get the result we will be there or thereabouts at the top of the group.”

Bannan has featured in all three of Scotland’s qualifiers, including the 5-1 defeat of Malta – when Owls team-mate Steven Fletcher got on the scoresheet – a 1-1 draw with Lithuania and a 3-0 loss in Slovakia.

Of course, Wembley does not hold happy memories for Bannan.

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He was part of the Sheffield Wednesday team beaten 1-0 by Hull City at the national stadium in the Championship play-off final in May.

It denied the midfielder an instant return to the top flight after the former Celtic man swapped Premier League football at Crystal Palace for a stint in the Championship.

But his outstanding performances for the Owls have not harmed his international career, with Gordon Strachan impressed with Bannan’s all-action displays.

Bannan sees similarities between how Strachan and Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal set up their teams, and does not have to tinker with his game whether turning out for club or country.

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“The two managers are pretty similar to the way they want to play,” he said. “(but) there are obviously different methods.

“The way I play, it is not really different wherever I go. You get what you see from me so I don’t think my game will change that much.”

Strachan’s side are fourth in their qualifying group after three games, behind England, Lithuania and Slovenia. England top the group, with seven points out of nine, and are the favourites to reach Russia next summer.

Bannan – capped 24 times by Scotland since making his debut in 2010 – accepts it will be a tough game, but is relishing playing the role of the underdog at Wembley.

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“They got a good point against Slovenia and I think they have done really well considering the things that have gone on around the squad,” Bannan said, alluding to Gareth Southgate having had to step into sacked Sam Allardyce’s shoes.

“England are one of the top teams in the world so we know it is going to be a tough game for us.

“But we will go there feeling confident and hopefully we can pick up a positive result.”

Bannan looks a good bet to start at Wembley, but Fletcher is a doubt after picking up a slight knee injury in Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Ipswich Town last Saturday at Hillsborough.

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Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee said Fletcher – who has netted three goals for the Owls since his summer move from Sunderland – and Celtic midfielder Scott Brown are injury doubts.

McGhee explained: “Scott had a bit of a dead leg, but I don’t think there is any concern about his fitness.

“Steven Fletcher – there is a little bit of concern about him. But, other than that, everyone else is okay to go.”

Charlie Mulgrew has been drafted into the Scotland squad as defensive cover.

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The Scottish Football Association announced that the versatile Blackburn player had been added to the group for the Wembley encounter.

It is understood Mulgrew has been brought in after his Rovers team-mate Gordon Greer suffered a knock, although the former Kilmarnock and Brighton defender remains with the squad.

Mulgrew has made four appearances for Blackburn since Scotland’s double-header last month after recovering from the calf strain that cut short his Rovers debut in September.

The 30-year-old, who can play midfield, centre-back or left-back, was last involved with Scotland in the post-season friendlies against France and Italy.