Steve Clarke’s inaugural Scotland squad announcement certainly sprung a few surprises amongst the Tartan Army as he named no fewer than five uncapped players for the upcoming doubleheader against Cyprus and Belgium.
One of the more surprising names to feature on the squad list was none other than Kilmarnock number 25; Eamonn Brophy.
Brophy has rightly won plaudits by those in the Scottish footballing media sphere for his high-intensity performances over the 2018-19 season as he, alongside his other three Kilmarnock team-mates, helped the Ayrshire club to an unexpected third-place finish and a historic return of European football for the first time since 2001.
However, most Scottish football fans could be forgiven for losing sight of how far Brophy has come in-order to earn this opportunity to represent his country.
His career has taken an unexpected turn for the better to say the least. Deemed not good enough by Hamilton Academical only two summers ago after a return of seven goals and three assists in 66 appearances with loan spells at Queens Park and Dumbarton in the lower echelons of the Scottish game sandwiched in between.
At the beginning of the 2017-18 season, Brophy was thrown an unforeseen lifeline with Kilmarnock by the soon to depart manager Lee McCulloch. His successor Steve Clarke and now current international manager is widely regarded as the man to have got the best out of him.
So why has the forward been thrust into the Scotland set-up?
Brophy is a player who Clarke is able to utilise effectively as his style of play aligns with his tactical methodology, especially in the bigger games. Clarke has used Brophy as both a lone striker complemented by wingers and sometimes as someone who plays just off the main forward which usually both come in the form the manager’s favoured 4-3-3 system.
This carries importance as Brophy squeezes the game from the front with his high work-rate he is well renowned for as he is used as the first line of defence, providing a torrid time for defenders when they have the ball at their feet.
This could potentially turn out to be of significant importance to Scotland, particularly during the bigger games – such as Belgium away.
The squad that has been selected gives an indication of a very midfield heavy approach being used due to the different styles of the midfielders included. Options vary from very attacking based players such as Tom Cairney, to more defensive minded conservative players such as Scott McTominay who primarily carries out his duties, jostling for possession in the middle third of the pitch and then moving the ball either out wide or further into opposition territory.
Brophy could be used as a lone striker in the Belgium fixture due to operating in a similar system under manager Steve Clarke in their time together at Kilmarnock as opposed to alternative striking options Marc McNulty, Johnny Russell and Oliver Burke. All of which possess qualities that are perhaps geared more towards the Scotland vs Cyprus fixture: a game the former will look to be playing more on the front foot.
Moreover, this is not to say that the Kilmarnock and Scotland forward doesn’t possess a goalscoring threat. Finishing as top scorer for third-placed Kilmarnock with 11 Premiership goals and 12 in all competitions with important goals against Rangers, Aberdeen and a solitary strike against Celtic included in his tally.
There is real scope for opportunity for Brophy in this new look Scotland side. With older options such as Steven Fletcher amongst others being phased out of the international picture, there is real optimism that Brophy can become a player that Scotland can rely on.
With the added advantage of playing under a manager who clearly has faith in his ability as a footballer and ability to complement the new Scotland manager and his tactical repertoire, the striker could well be the answer to Scotland’s well documented striking problems.