Smith backs Hibs starlets
By Tom Adams
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Walter Smith may play Derek Riordan and Garry O'Connor against Italy.Scotland boss Walter Smith has full confidence in Hibernian youngsters Derek Riordan and Garry O'Connor, and may even consider blooding them against European giants Italy.
The two forwards have been superb so far this season, and both were included in Smith's first get-together since Berti Vogts departed the Hampden Park hot seat.
The ex-Rangers boss has promoted the pair from the Under 21s in the build-up to the vital World Cup qualifying clash with the Azzurri on March 26, and has no doubts about their ability at international level.
"They are here on merit, having excellent seasons for their clubs," Smith told Sky Sports News.
"It's one of those situations, they are young but [James] McFadden has been here a couple of years and he is still younger than Riordan.
"They are here on merit and maybe they'll get their opportunity in the San Siro."
Smith organised a three-day training camp in the absence of a friendly fixture for the Tartan Army, and is looking to add his own mark to the squad which Vogts presided over until November.
After a disappointing start to World Cup qualifying the Scotland boss is looking to streamline the squad and has not given up hope of qualifying for the 2006 finals in Germany.
"We just tried to get across it's a new era coming in, we hope for an uplift in results," continued Smith.
"The meeting was a very positive one and we're hopeful it has had a good effect.
"The possibility is still there [to qualify], the biggest disappointment was only taking one point from a possible six in home games, it left us with a bit to do, but while it is still possible mathematically we'll hang in there.
"The Italian game we have coming up at the end of March is obviously a huge game for us but until we are told it's not possible to qualify we'll make as big an attempt as we can.
"I think Scotland have used an awful lot of players in the last three years, we want to whittle that down and this squad will give us the bulk of the players who will take us forward in the next couple of seasons."
Smith also expressed his delight that David Weir has opted to rejoin the international fold after withdrawing his services under the previous management.
"I brought Davie Weir down to Everton and was impressed by the way he handled himself all the time I was there.
"I was disappointed when he left the national team, I phoned and asked him and he was keen to get back, his experience will be a great asset."
Barry Ferguson leaving Blackburn in January to return to home club Rangers would also have a knock-on effect for his fledgling squad, Smith reflected.
"No disrespect to any club but a player will always give his best when happiest, obviously from Barry's own comments he wanted to go back to Rangers, now he's back there he's happy and that can only have a positive benefit for Scotland."