Levein explains Weir, Hartley recalls
Craig Levein has stated the return of David Weir to the international fold is because Scotland will be "playing for real" in their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers against Lithuania and Liechtenstein next month. The 40-year-old Rangers captain, whose last game in dark blue was against the Netherlands at Hampden almost a year ago, was left out of Levein's first two squads for the games against Czech Republic and Sweden.
However, in the wake of a 3-0 drubbing in Stockholm earlier in the month, the former Hearts and Everton defender has been recalled and, if selected, will win his 66th cap in the crucial opener against Lithuania in Kaunas on 3 September. Levein has no qualms about turning to a player whose international career most people thought was over.
"The thing about Davie is he is still playing at the highest level week in, week out," Levein told the Scottish Football Association's official website. "The fact he is still turning in top-class performances means it was a pretty easy decision to make for me.
"I had a good chat with him last night and I told him I was not just bringing him along for the ride. I had a look at a few people in the last couple of games but we are playing for real now. My job is to pick the best players for each position and if you look around, Davie is probably as good as anyone."
Levein was quick to stress Weir's inclusion was not a reflection on Garry Kenneth, who did not make the squad. The Dundee United youngster took the majority of the blame for the defeat in Stockholm, but his former Tannadice manager said: "Garry will have his day and if he keeps improving then he will come back in.
"It is dog-eat-dog and all I can do is give people an opportunity. It is then up to them to take it.""
Paul Hartley, the new Aberdeen captain, also returns and Levein believes the 33-year-old midfielder's experience will be vital. "As I said before, the only reason Paul was not in the squad against Sweden was that he did not find a club," he said.
"Experience was the key with him. We do not have a natural holding midfield player, but Paul's experience in the position is vital for me."
Gilks gets his chance
In the main there was a look of familiarity about Levein's squad, but Blackpool keeper Matt Gilks was called up for the first time after the Scottish Football Association discovered that the player has Scottish grandparents. Rochdale-born Gilks replaces Neil Alexander and, with Gordon Marshall, will be back-up to Allan McGregor, who will again be the first choice in the absence of injured Craig Gordon.
Steven Fletcher, Kevin McNaughton and Alan Hutton have also been included in the squad but injuries mean they are ruled out of the first game in Kaunas. Fletcher has bruised a bone in his foot, McNaughton has a minor hamstring strain and Hutton is recovering from a groin operation. Their progress will be assessed by the medical team.
Levein said: "They are carrying injuries and will not be available for Lithuania but if their injuries improve significantly, then they will be considered."