BARRY Robson admits the World Cup finals in 2014 are likely to be his last chance to appear on the big stage for Scotland – and he is determined to keep his younger team-mates at bay to get there.
The oldest member of Craig Levein’s squad celebrated his 33rd birthday yesterday by flying out from Glasgow airport ahead of Friday’s friendly against Cyprus in Larnaca, where the Scots will look to get back on track after yet another unsuccessful qualification campaign for the European Championships next summer.
The Middlesbrough midfielder, who made his Scotland debut in a friendly against South Africa in August 2007, accepts it might be Brazil or bust for him, but he is ready to fend off the challenge from the squad’s “young upstarts”.
“It could be my last chance – it probably will be because I am getting older,” he said.
“But we have some other older boys in the squad and you need a balance between the older heads (and younger ones).
“I still feel fit and fresh and I am looking forward to the campaign coming. It is only 10 months away and it is an exciting time.
“It is good to see the younger kids coming through and see how buoyant and excited they are, they bring a freshness to it all.
“But I think I am even hungrier. As you get older you want to stay there and you want to prove yourself and want to prove that the young upstarts are not as good as a lot of the old ones.
“So it’s great for me and the other older players to see the other young boys coming through, it just drives you on even more.”
Levein believes lack of game-time hampered the Scots’ Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, and to that end he is looking for four friendlies before the 2014 World Cup qualifiers begin next year.
“I think it was a big problem for us,” said Robson.
“You saw the squad and team getting stronger (as the campaign went on) and the manager must take a lot of credit for that.
“We are in a wee bit of a transition at the moment.
“We are now building towards a World Cup campaign next year and the more chances we get to get together the better it is for everyone.
“We want to get everyone thinking and feeling the same way.
“Obviously we would rather be in the play-offs but we need to move on now and we have to be positive.
“As I said we have a lot of young kids coming through and they are going to make a difference.”
Scotland coach Kenny Black insists the fixture against Cyprus remains worthwhile despite the raft of call-offs.
Charlie Adam (knee), Graham Dorrans (ankle), Alan Hutton (knee), Lee Wallace (thigh), Russell Martin (ankle) and David Marshall (illness) are out, while Leeds United striker Robert Snodgrass is having a scan yesterday on a leg injury and is a major doubt.
Levein has drafted in St Mirren goalkeeper Craig Samson, Stephen Crainey of Blackpool, MK Dons defender Gary McKenzie, Cardiff midfielder Craig Conway and Hearts’ Ryan Stevenson.
Black admitted the call-offs were disappointing, but insisted there was value to be had from the training camp and match.
“There were six or seven (out) and we have already brought five in,” he said.
“I think you run the risk of that with games on Saturday and Sunday.
“I think Craig was sitting by his phone and the updates were coming through, so it was disappointing, but it is an opportunity for the guys who are going to be introduced to the squad.
“Worthwhile? Very much so. Craig is keen to keep that spirit in the camp.
“There was a disappointment of not qualifying for the Euros, but we are looking ahead to another campaign now and it is important that we get the guys back as quickly as possible and move on for the World Cup campaign.
“We will have three or four days together but the most important thing is that we win the game and keep that feel-good factor.”