Sunderland favourite Jon McLaughlin on his Scotland ambitions and battle with Celtic stopper

Jon McLaughlin is hoping that his outstanding Sunderland form leads to a second Scotland cap on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday, 21st March 2019, 5:00 am
SAFC 2-0 PAFC EFL 1 Stadium of Light 02-03-2019. Picture by FRANK REID

Scotland begin their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign away to Kazakhstan, a game in which McLaughlin can have realistic hopes of starting.

The Black Cats keeper won his first cap after a stellar campaign for Hearts last summer, but Allan McGregor and Craig Gordon have been the preferred options for Alex McLeish since his return to the helm of the national team.

But Gordon is injured and McGregor recently sprung a surprise by announcing his international retirement.

McLaughlin, who joined up with the squad last Sunday, is competing against Celtic’s Scott Bain for the number one jersey.

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Millwall’s Jordan Archer was the third goalkeeper selected, but injury has since seen him replaced by uncapped Livingston goalkeeper Liam Kelly.

McLeish has previously hinted that Bain is in the driving seat but McLaughlin knows there is a big opportunity for him to impress.

“Allan and Craig have had it locked down for so long, such fantastic goalkeepers with so much experience of playing at the top level for so long, that it really looked like it was theirs to fight for as long as they wanted to play,” McLaughlin told the Echo.

“The rest of us would just have to bide our time, see what happened and enjoy being involved.

“For this campaign, there’s only a couple of caps between us. It’s certainly an interesting scenario, you don’t know what will happen going forward but as a goalkeeper all you can do is prepare properly, be there, give everything you can and if you get the honour of wearing that shirt, do everything you can for the team and try and take that opportunity.”

International ambitions are another incentive for McLaughlin to continue his fine Sunderland form and help push the Black Cats back to the Championship.

He has withdrawn from previous squads due to his League One commitments, a decision which has proven to be the right one for club and country, but also one he would love to avoid having to make in the future.

“It’s just unfortunate that in League One you don’t get those international breaks,” he said.

“It means that there has been squads that I’ve had to pull out of for the good of the club.

“At the end of the day, if you’re going to play more of a supporting role for your country and miss games for your club, Scotland have been very good at saying that at this stage, it’s more important that you can fulfil your duties for your club side.

“That’s another big incentive to get this club promoted, it will only help your international cause. Playing for a club of this size helps because people see the value of your performances in terms of stepping up to international level.”

McLeish confirmed last week that he is eager to explore the possibility of bringing Southampton stopper Angus Gunn into the fold, but insists that McLaughlin has a good chance of becoming number one.

“There would be no guarantee Angus would walk into the number one spot,” he said.

“He is still going through a maturity process, being at Norwich on loan from Man City and then getting a fantastic move. That must have empowered him.

“He would think he can now rise to a different level, but our three goalies have been playing regularly, and playing to a very good standard.”