PHIL BARDSLEY believes Scotland’s cluster of Premier League regulars can bring an end to the Tartan Army’s exile from the international big stage.
Scotland face the USA in Jacksonville, Florida, in the early hours of tomorrow morning, with their focus already turned towards the World Cup qualification process which begins in September.
Craig Levein’s men will be mere spectators for next month’s European Championships after finishing third in their qualification group behind the Czech Republic and Spain.
It was a familiar tale for the Scots, who have not reached the finals of a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup.
But Bardsley, expected to feature tomorrow, is one of several players now at Levein’s disposal who are playing first-team football in the Premier League and the Sunderland full-back is confident that can see Scotland earn a place in Brazil in 2014.
Bardsley told the Echo: “There’s seven or eight of us who play in the Premier League every week now which is a bonus – Fletch (Darren Fletcher), Charlie (Adam), James Morrison, Alan Hutton, there’s some good players.
“I’ve said a few times that we’ve got some experience in there, and youth as well, with the likes of (Barry) Bannan at Villa and (David) Goodwillie at Blackburn.
“They’ve got a great chance of becoming top players and it’s up to them to concentrate and focus on their careers.
“Then there’s the old ones as well like Kenny Miller and Gary Caldwell.
“We’ve got the right balance and hopefully we can give it a right good go to qualify for the World Cup.
Scotland face an uphill task if they are to grace Brazil though, with a daunting qualification group that involves Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Macedonia and Wales.
Croatia are the only one of those sides to feature in Poland and Ukraine next month, but Belgium can boast a rich array of young talent, including Sunderland stopper Simon Mignolet.
“We’ve got some tough games with Belgium, Montenegro and Wales, who are looking really good,” added Bardsley.
“But we’re on the right tracks to keep progressing and hopefully we can qualify.”