Shay Given criticises Gordon McQueen for inciting fans to boo players

Former Scotland international said crowd should give McGeady and McCarthy a horrible night

Legend has it that Archie Gemmill, then at Derby County, drove his heavily pregnant wife all the way to Paisley in mid-season so that their son would be born in Scotland.

The boy, Scot, as it happens, went on to play for his country too and maybe the trip was a factor, but if that was really Archie’s intention it’s hard to imagine Mrs Gemmill not pointing out during the long and presumably uncomfortable journey that the lad would be able to declare under the parentage rule regardless.

Twenty-seven years later Scot was part of the squad at France'98 that included English-born players Neil Sullivan, Colin Calderwood and Matt Elliott. Both Gemmills went on to coach underage national sides and there is no evidence of either ever turning down away an eligible prospect on the basis of their place of birth.

Rather more pertinently, perhaps, four of the current squad were born south of the border and even Archie, one suspects, despite having been so keen to avoid that fate befalling his son, must have wondered about the wisdom of his old international team-mate Gordon McQueen offering his tuppence-worth on Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy.

His suggestion that the pair should get a "horrible" reception in Celtic Park has been criticised by pretty much everyone, with the term "ill-informed" featuring prominently amongst several of reactions.

Shay Given has certainly had a taste of the extremes of Scottish football, its tremendous spirit and occasional stupidity, and the 38-year-old seemed as taken aback as most yesterday, although he was more restrained in his reaction than even one or two of the SFA’s officials.

Long-time Celtic fan

“The comments were a bit unfair,” said the Donegal man, a long-time Celtic fan whose own youth career was spent at the club.

“Some of the Scottish players were born in England but have Scottish parents. It can’t be one rule for Ireland and one rule for others. They are in the exact same situation, so some of the comments were a bit personal and a wee bit over the top.

"I just think there is no need to go to that sort of level. As I say, they have players in their squad as well who weren't born in Scotland and playing for them. I think it was unfair on James and Aiden to single them out."

McQueen’s suggestion had been that the fans should do just that on Friday, something some will surely do, but Given believes that the pair will not be unduly troubled by the taunts.

“We can’t tell fans what to do or what not to do,” he says. “I mean, we’re going into the Scotland environment and the Scotland fans can do what they want. Aiden and James are experienced players now and they are fantastic players. Probably the reason we are talking about them is they are such great players.

“And I’m sure they will show everyone in Glasgow how good they are – if James is fit, that is.”

There is still some slight doubt about that with Martin O’Neill suggesting yesterday that the Everton midfielder, who didn’t train yesterday, would be monitored closely over the coming days.

Competitive action

The same is true of

Glenn Whelan

, although the Stoke City midfielder did take part in yesterday’s session.

His lack of competitive action now looks to be a bigger barrier to his participation than the injury itself, which an association official described as a chipped bone rather than a fracture, the term Stoke City manager Mark Hughes used it after the Germany game.

Stephen Ward has also been carrying a slight ankle problem since Gelsenkirchen but having started for his club three times in the interim, O'Neill is not overly concerned.

“I’m pretty happy Stephen will be available,” he said. “Stoke are happy in terms of the injury [to Whelan]. It’s just what he’s capable of doing now and it would be more, I think, fitness . . . remember he has hardly done a thing since the game against Germany.

“But Glenn has had a really strong training session with Stoke and that was good, he’s followed that up [here] and we’ll play it very much day by day; James is very much the same case. It’s less than 48 hours since he had a strain and we’ll see how he is.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times