Paddy Davitt, Norwich City Writer
Friday, August 1, 2014
Scottish international Steven Whittaker is under no illusions his hopes of featuring in a successful European Championship campaign for his country rest on doing the business for Norwich City.
Whittaker is eying a big season ahead for club and country, with the Canaries’ Championship promotion push and the start of Scotland’s quest to reach a major finals for the first time since 1998.
The 30-year-old looks in pole position to nail down a starting spot at right-back with captain Russell Martin switching to central defence but Whittaker is taking nothing for granted.
“There is a lot of depth in the squad and in that respect it’s probably different down here to playing in Scotland,” said the former Hibs and Rangers player. “If things didn’t quite go right for you on a personal basis there you tended to still be in the team the following week whereas in England you will find yourself out of the team. It’s not something you ever really get used to but it’s down to me to keep my form at a good level.”
Whittaker and Martin will both expect to be involved in Gordan Strachan’s squad for next month’s daunting trip to World Cup winners Germany in a group that also features the Republic of Ireland.
“I don’t think there will be many who don’t feel it is a foregone conclusion that Germany will be favourites to top the group,” he said. “We have Ireland, Georgia and Poland fighting it out for the other two spots. The last time we qualified for the finals of a major tournament was 1998 so it has been a long time coming. This time you get two automatic and the third spot goes into the play-offs so that gives you an extra incentive. There has been some banter with the Irish boys here. I think we play them at home first towards the end of the year and then the return is on June 13 next year, which isn’t ideal, but we will tackle that when we come around. There has been a little bit of a transformation I feel with Scotland and you have more and more younger boys coming through. The average age is coming right down and there is a good club feel about the place.”
• Norwich City academy prospect Todd Cantwell suffered a 3-0 defeat on Thursday with England’s Under-17s aganst Sweden’s under-17s in the final group game of the Nordic tournament.
Cantwell played the final 26 minutes after a goalscoring full debut for the Young Lions in the previous 1-1 draw against Iceland’s under-17s but Dan Micciche’s squad were unable to recover from conceding twice inside the opening 15 minutes to a Swedish side coached by ex-Coventry defender Roland Nilsson. England will now contest the third/fourth place play-off game this weekend.