The LTL Number Crunch: Assessing Scotland’s Potential New No. 1

With Allan McGregor calling time on his international career ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and with both Craig Gordon and David Marshall now being viewed as yesterday’s men the Scotland national team has entered into a period of uncertainty in relation to what is often viewed as one of our strongest positions. With the three aforementioned goalkeepers now no longer in contention a 123 cap void has been left in Alex McLeish’s latest squad for the qualifiers away to Kazakhstan and San Marino.

In their place, a trio of goalkeepers with only one cap each and an end of season tour of the Americas to their name in the shape of Scott Bain, Jon McLaughlin and Jordan Archer. The recently installed Celtic number one seems primed to have first go at being the national team’s in-goal custodian and so Leading the Line looked at his path to the national side and how he stacks up against the other goalkeepers who have made it into the squad.

Bain’s journey to the national side has not been without it’s peaks and troughs. A youth player at Aberdeen he started to gain attention during a three season spell with Alloa Athletic where he was a key part of a squad that achieved successive promotions with the Wasps as the Clackmannanshire side moved up from the Third Division to the Championship and then maintained their position under the guidance of Paul Hartley.

After Hartley moved to Dundee and just about led the Dark Blues to the Championship title one of his first signings in the following summer was to bring in the highly rated Bain. His 108 game spell at Dens Park started well with his form earning him a call up to the national side in June 2015 after Allan McGregor was ruled out through injury. Over time though his form started on a downward trajectory and soon he fell behind both Jack Hamilton and Elliott Parish in the Dundee pecking order and following a fall out with manager Neil McCann a loan move to Hibernian followed at the start of January 2018. That loan move though was cancelled on the last day of the transfer window with Bain instead moving to Celtic to act as understudy to both Craig Gordon and Dorius De Vries. He went on to make seven appearances in the league as the Parkhead side completed another domestic treble. He started the 2018/19 season as Celtic’s league back up and cup goalkeeper playing in every knockout tie including the final as Celtic won the Betfred Cup. His first league start of the campaign came in November away to Livingston with a home game against Dundee following a month later, in both games Bain kept clean sheets.

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His ascent to the role of Celtic’s number one didn’t take place until after his side’s 1-0 defeat to Rangers in the most recent Old Firm derby of the season  as he replaced Craig Gordon with the 54 time capped international having come under increasing scrutiny for some error strewn performances as well as his inability to fully embrace the style of play Brendan Rodgers was looking to implement. With Bain in goal Celtic went on an eleven game clean sheet run in all competitions and in the 20 games that he’s played this season he has only conceded six goals. Whilst this is impressive it has to be caveated that he has faced less shots on target per game since the turn of the year than his contemporaries in the squad at just 2.3 per game (McLaughlin has faced 4.2 and Archer 3.1). He has the most clean sheets and highest clean sheet percentages of the three goalkeepers to make the squad at 75% and only McLaughlin is slightly ahead of him in terms of save percentage since the turn of the year. The Sunderland keepers 82% just edging Bain’s 81% into first place with Archer’s rate of just 57% suggesting he will very firmly be third choice for the time being.

Whilst his recent rise seems swift when compared with his competitors for the number one jersey he has racked up over 270 appearances across his career and if it wasn’t for losing his way whilst at Dens Park there is a suggestion he would have been in the national side mix a lot sooner. There is also a popular theory that players in form and who are part of successful sides should be allowed to translate that success onto an international stage. Of the three Bain is currently operating at the highest level, at the biggest club and is the only one to have won a major trophy. Games against Kazakhstan and San Marino should allow him to ease his way into the role but for now the number one jersey still remains very much up for grabs.

For more Spanish, Scottish and women’s football commentary, opinions and stats follow @MFPTasty on Twitter and subscribe to Leading the Line.

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