Friday 15 December 2017

Shaun toasts Scots return as Spanish loom

Shaun Maloney hopes to make the move from pub to pitch for Scotland's Euro 2012 qualifying double-header against the Czech Republic and Spain.

The Celtic midfielder has started the season in fine form and there was no surprise when he was recalled to the squad by Craig Levein after missing out against Lithuania and Liechtenstein last month.

Maloney watched those games in a pub with friends and was as relieved as any of the Tartan Army when his former Parkhead team-mate Stephen McManus scored the winner against Liechtenstein at Hampden with a header in the seventh minute of injury time to take the Scots joint-top of their section with four points.

This time, the former Aston Villa is looking to play more than a supporting role. "I watched the games with friends in the pub," he said. "I just felt a massive relief when big Mick (McManus) scored that header. It was a very tough night but in the end it was a very good result.

"I was hopeful the last time although when the squad was announced I wasn't surprised not to be included. The Spain game sticks out and it's the sort of tie the fans and players are looking forward to.

"You want to play against the world champions and hopefully it will be a good night. I just feel very fortunate to be back.

"If we get a good result against the Czech Republic then I am sure it will continue to help the confidence going into the Spain game," he added.

Church praying for Wales start

Simon Church is hoping to kickstart his own season and Wales' Euro 2012 qualifying campaign this week.

The 21-year-old striker has endured a frustrating time at Reading this term, scoring just once and often being named on the bench, and hopes for a change of luck in international colours as Bulgaria visit the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday.

Injuries to Craig Bellamy and Robert Earnshaw have raised the possibility that Church could be sent out from the beginning by caretaker manager Brian Flynn.

Church said: "It's big quality missing out but it is a chance for other people to come in and show their worth at international level.

The match is Wales' first since Flynn was named as John Toshack's temporary replacement as manager and Church added: "There's a new atmosphere now with Brian coming in. It is a new start for everyone and we have a lot to prove to everyone in Wales."

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