Ferguson will be huge loss, says Naismith
Steven Naismith believes Barry Ferguson will be a major loss to Scotland but fully understands his reasons for retiring from international football. Ferguson will not play for Scotland again after informing manager Craig Levein he wants to focus on his club career with Premier League side Birmingham City instead. The midfielder spent months mulling over the decision after Levein opened the door for the former Rangers captain to return to the national fold.
Ferguson was banned from international selection in April last year, along with his then Ibrox team-mate Allan McGregor, for his role in the infamous 'Boozegate' affair and has not represented his country since. Levein declared his desire to see both players back in the squad when he replaced George Burley at the helm in December.
But he has reluctantly been forced to accept Ferguson's decision not to make a comeback ahead of the forthcoming UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers. "He will be a massive loss," said Scotland and Rangers forward Naismith. "We felt it at Rangers when he left here. It was a massive loss for us and it will be the same again for Scotland, especially on the international stage where you need players who have got a lot of experience.
"Fergie was the one who probably had the most experience out of the whole squad so it will be a big loss," he added. "But you just have to look at players in the past, guys like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, who have prolonged their careers by stopping playing international football. So I can understand totally why Barry has done it."
Naismith believes Rangers midfielder Kevin Thomson, whose Scotland career has been hampered by injury in the past, is a natural successor to Ferguson in the national team. He added: "Kevin Thomson was the first name that sprung to mind when I heard the news. He has done so well over the last couple of years for Rangers and he was the first to come to my mind.
"It will be an opportunity for guys like Kevin Thomson, who have pushed on now. There are a few players out there who will think they are good enough. Players who have been down in England, like Graham Dorrans, as well. He has done well at West Brom so he is another candidate."
Naismith believes senior members of the Scotland squad will also have a bigger role to play now that they can no longer rely on former skipper Ferguson's leadership qualities. He said: "James McFadden has been around the international scene for a while so you would be looking at someone like him to have more of an influence on the squad. Darren Fletcher is another who has played at the highest level. Lee McCulloch is back as well so there are guys there who we can look up to in the squad."
Levein said: "I am naturally disappointed not to call on Barry's abilities and experience for the Euro 2012 qualification campaign, but I understand his reasons. The arrangement was that Barry would have the summer to decide. Birmingham returned to pre-season training yesterday and when we spoke last night, he said that both family commitments and his commitment to Birmingham City were the priorities in his life at the moment. I wish him the best of luck and we now move on with our preparations for the qualification campaign, starting with the friendly against Sweden next month.
"I'm very happy with the midfield players available, added the Scotland boss. "We saw Graham Dorrans in particular and Charlie Adam had a great end to the season at Blackpool so I expect there to be tough competition."