Ferguson opts against Scotland return

Ferguson, who has not played for Scotland since the infamous

‘Boozegate’ episode last year, admitted earlier this month that

being out of the squad “hurt” him. But he has since told Scotland

manager Craig Levein that he does not want to be considered for

selection. A Scottish Football Association spokesman said: “During

a live radio broadcast last week, Barry Ferguson intimated that he

may consider a return to international football. “In subsequent

conversations with the national team coach, Craig Levein, and the

team scout, Michael Oliver, Barry has confirmed this not to be the

case. “He will therefore not be considered for selection and the

matter is now closed.” Levein has been eager to welcome the

Birmingham midfielder back in the fold since becoming George

Burley’s successor in December last year. Allan McGregor, who had

been banned indefinitely by the Scottish Football Association along

with Ferguson, quickly returned to the squad when Levein reopened

the door to the pair. But Ferguson’s personal circumstances had

changed after leaving Rangers as a consequence of his drinking

session at the Scotland hotel and subsequent gestures towards

photographers after being dropped for a World Cup qualifier against

Iceland in April 2009. The 32-year-old visits his Lanarkshire-based

family during international breaks and also feels a debt of

gratitude to Birmingham boss Alex McLeish. McLeish was the only

Barclays Premier League manager to show an interest in Ferguson

after Rangers decided to let him go and the former Scotland captain

has returned to top form at St Andrew’s. Ferguson laid bare the

inner turmoil over his continuing international exile on BBC Radio

Scotland earlier this month in an interview seen by many as the

first step towards a return. But Ferguson also admitted that, had

he returned to the national team, McLeish would not have offered

him the contract extension that he recently signed, which ties him

to Birmingham until the summer of 2012. The former Scotland manager

has consistently warned Ferguson that he might find it difficult to

retain his place in the team after international breaks were he to

resume playing for his country. Ferguson said on September 15: “It

never leaves you and you always want to represent your country.

“Watching the games, you want to be out there helping Scotland get

to a major European finals. It does hurt not being part of it.”

Levein then reiterated his desire to have Ferguson back and McLeish

declared the decision was up to his player. But the former Rangers

manager added: “Scotland have got two hard games coming up with the

Czech Republic and Spain and I know Barry would excel in the

company of those two teams. “But then he would have to come back

and play away at the Emirates, so it’s a big ask for a player of 32

years of age.” Whether Levein held out genuine hope of a Ferguson

return is unclear, but there is no question his addition would have

solved a major selection problem in midfield. Lee McCulloch was

booked in both the goalless draw in Lithuania and the last-gasp

victory over Liechtenstein and will consequently miss Scotland’s

third European Championship qualifier in Prague on October 8. His

most likely replacement in the holding role is Paul Hartley, but

Aberdeen manager Mark McGhee has ruled him out because of a

hamstring injury. Kevin Thomson has yet to play for Middlesbrough

since breaking his leg in August, although the former Rangers

midfielder has returned to training earlier than anticipated.

Levein is due to name his squad on Thursday for the games against

the Czechs and Spain, who visit Hampden on October 12. Ferguson’s

brother, Derek, revealed the Birmingham midfielder had been

seriously considering a return until the weekend. The former

Rangers and Sunderland midfielder, who spoke to his younger brother

today, told BBC Radio Scotland: “I was confident he was going to

come back but, if he isn’t 100% right mentally, he has made a wise

decision. “You don’t want to be part of something if you’re not

fully committed. “There are some things that are niggling away at

the back of his mind. “I think he was a bit worried about the media

circus that would probably surround him. It might even take away

from the game. “He is enjoying the quiet life down there. He’s away

from the goldfish bowl up here. “I can see it in him physically, he

is looking better. He’s a happier man, he is not in the spotlight.”

Derek added: “There are two or three things that influenced him.

The other one is probably Alex McLeish. Alex McLeish has a big

influence on Barry. “Alex McLeish has got to look after himself and

Birmingham. Because he’s the wrong side of 30, if he goes away and

plays international matches, is he going to be fresh for

Birmingham? “Alex McLeish has not said: ‘You’re not going to play

for your country’. “He is just putting his case forward and saying:

‘Are you going to be able to play these games after international

breaks?”