Scotland manager Alex McLeish found out two days before he named his first squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers that Allan McGregor was set to retire from international football.
The 37-year-old announced on Monday that he was ending his Scotland career after 42 caps in order to prolong his club career but McLeish always feared the goalkeeper could call it a day.
McGregor was McLeish’s number one throughout the successful Nations League campaign in the autumn and his sudden departure has left the Scotland boss with inexperienced options.
McLeish has picked three keepers with one cap each – Celtic’s Scott Bain, Millwall goalie Jordan Archer and Jon McLaughlin of Sunderland.
Former Birmingham manager McLeish – who handed McGregor his Rangers and Scotland debuts – said: “It’s obviously a blow for us, Allan being in great form this season for club and country.
“But I kind of knew this day would come, having kept in touch with Allan over a year now.
“I knew at Hull he had some ailments and some problems and you always wondered when the day might come when we would lose him.
“It was amicable. He knows his body now, he obviously wants to play as much club football as he can and keep himself right for that but he is suffering in certain parts of his body at this stage of his life.
“Old age does creep in. Goalkeepers do last a little bit longer than outfield players but Allan has been through the wars in the last couple of years.
“He has suffered back injuries, knee injuries and to come back from that and play at the level he has been playing over the last year is a great feat and a tribute to him.”
When asked when he found out about McGregor’s intention to quit, McLeish said: “A couple of days ago, just as we were formulating the squad.
“I actually had a gift for him from a friend and I text him, so I unwittingly started the conversation. He said ‘can I speak to you before you announce the squad?'”
When asked if it was a surprise, McLeish said: “Of course, but I couldn’t preclude in the earlier moments of my Scotland tenure that Allan could have bowed out at any time.
“He gave us everything, he was fantastic in the Nations League, he made a fantastic save in the last game against Israel. Just pure experience, and you want the young guys who are going to take over to take inspiration from that.”
McLeish confirmed he made attempts to dissuade McGregor, adding: “We tried to manage it – could you play one game? Could we do something to help you?
“I gave him a couple of days to think about it and sadly he has come back with the same answer.
“He has obviously thought long and hard about it, and the timing is probably crucial. He has maybe felt before the tournament starts he wanted to make the decision rather than stop in the middle of the tournament.
“But the guy to speak to about that side of it would be Allan McGregor.”
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