Scotland: Bournemouth's Matt Ritchie given first call-up

Matt Ritchie celebrates with Bournemouth
Matt Ritchie has helped his club lead the English Championship

Bournemouth winger Matt Ritchie has received his first call up to the Scotland squad for games against Northern Ireland and Gibraltar.

Strikers Jordan Rhodes, of Blackburn Rovers, and Ross McCormack, of Fulham, are recalled by Gordon Strachan.

Celtic winger James Forrest is also back after his return to fitness.

But there is no place for midfielders Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven despite their fine form since joining Celtic from Dundee United.

Forrest, Celtic team-mates Craig Gordon and Scott Brown, plus uncapped Aberdeen defender Mark Reynolds, are the only Scottish-based players in Gordon Strachan's 26-man squad.

Scotland host the Northern Irish in a friendly at Hampden Park on 25 March before Gibraltar visit four days later in a Euro 2016 qualifier.

The 25-year-old Ritchie was born in Gosport but qualifies for Scotland thanks to his father, Alex.

He has scored 11 times for the Cherries so far this season, including two in a 5-1 win away to Fulham a fortnight ago, and helped Eddie Howe's side to the top of the English Championship.

Strachan said: "Between himself and Bournemouth, they've dragged themselves right into our vision by the way they have been playing - they have been terrific.

"Matt's been integral to the success and they are a smashing side with some good players.

"He likes to play the way we like to play, a good passer of the ball, determination and a willingness to learn."

Ritchie started his career at Portsmouth, had loan spells with Dagenham & Redbridge, Notts County and Swindon Town before signing permanently for the Robins in 2011 and switched to the Cherries two years later.

Jordan Rhodes celebrates a goal for Blackburn
Jordan Rhodes has scored three goals in three games for Blackburn Rovers

Asked about the absence of Armstrong and Mackay-Steven, Strachan appeared as yet unconvinced by suggestions that the players had improved in the short time since their move to Celtic Park.

"There are about 12-14 who might have thought they would be in the squad," he said.

"It's the players who have played here previous who have done so well - they are the ones who have that place in the squad and deserve their place in the squad.

"We've got a group of players we can rely on and we always wanted something like a club side and I feel we're getting that way.

"Because of the performances over the last couple of years, I know I can trust players."

Rhodes is given his chance with Derby County striker Chris Martin missing out through injury, but hhis Ewood Park team-mate, winger Craig Conway, is unavailable along with Hull City midfielder Robert Snodgrass, who is still recovering from long-term injury.

Another Blackburn player, Grant Hanley, drops out the squad through injury, and Strachan admits that it would be a cause for concern if he suffered any other withdrawals from central defence.

Scotland sit third in European Championship qualifying Group D with seven points from four games.

Gibraltar - Uefa's newest member and who have Scotsman David Wilson as caretaker head coach - are bottom with no points from the same number of fixtures, having failed to score a single goal while conceding 21.

Scotland squad

Goalkeepers: Craig Gordon (Celtic), David Marshall (Cardiff City), Allan McGregor (Hull City)

Defenders: Christophe Berra (Ipswich Town), Craig Forsyth (Derby County), Gordon Greer (Brighton and Hove Albion), Alan Hutton (Aston Villa), Russell Martin (Norwich City), Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen), Andrew Robertson (Hull City), Steven Whittaker (Norwich City)

Midfielders: Ikechi Anya (Watford), Barry Bannan (Bolton Wanderers), Scott Brown (Celtic), Darren Fletcher (West Bromwich Albion), James Forrest (Celtic), Shaun Maloney (Chicago Fire), James McArthur (Crystal Palace), James Morrison (West Bromwich Albion), Matt Ritchie (Bournemouth), Johnny Russell (Derby County)

Forwards: Steven Fletcher (Sunderland), Steven May (Sheffield Wednesday), Ross McCormack (Fulham), Steven Naismith (Everton), Jordan Rhodes (Blackburn Rovers).

Top Stories