martes, 29 de marzo de 2011

Scotland's latest call-up Craig Mackail-Smith stunned at four-year journey ... - Scottish Daily Record

Craig Mackail-Smith

CRAIG MACKAIL-SMITH admits he's still in a state of shock after making a staggering ascent from non-league football to facing the boys of Brazil.

The Peterborough striker secured a dream first Scotland cap when he came on as a late sub against the swaggering South Americans on Sunday.

Mackail-Smith was only called into the squad 72 hours before the 2-0 defeat after SFA chiefs rubber-stamped the paperwork confirming his eligibility.

Born in Watford, the Posh hitman qualified for Craig Levein's set-up due to his grandmother Margaret having roots in Edinburgh.

He worked feverishly alongside his father to cut through the red tape in time - and that was perfectly understandable given where he was plying his trade four years ago.

Rubbing shoulders with the samba kings was a million miles away from turning out at ramshackle parks playing as a part timer with Dagenham and Redbridge.

In truth, even Dagenham was a step up from the early days at St Albans City and Arlesey Town. But Mackail-Smith can consign these memories to the past after winning the cap that proves he belongs among the elite of international football.

He said: "It has been a long journey from non-league football.

"I was part-time at Dagenham for a while but I asked the club to make me a full-time player and they just about had enough of a budget to do that.

"When I think back to those days, I just played my football and hoped something good would come from it.

"That attitude has got me here so there's no reason to change.

"I won England C caps when I was playing non-league.

"It's a semi-pro team really and they called me up to play for them but it doesn't really compare to winning a full Scotland cap against Brazil. That was something special."

International debuts are always occasions to remember but few get the chance to make theirs against such high-profile and glittering opposition.

Mackail-Smith said: "Playing against Brazil was an incredible experience. The atmosphere was amazing and I enjoyed every minute.

"I had to pinch myself when I got the call-up. Playing for Scotland is big enough but facing Brazil is something else, even if it was just a few minutes.

"My family were there and got to see me get on the pitch. My nan wasn't there because she is getting on a bit but she was planning to watch on TV.

"She wouldn't quite have been jumping around the living room but she would have been so proud.

"This is what she has wanted ever since I started playing."

Mackail-Smith will hand his first Scotland shirt to his gran - but he also managed to bag a souvenir of his own.

The 27-year-old said: "I got Lucio's shirt at full-time, which isn't too bad. He's a World Cup winner.

"My nan is getting my top. I'll sign it for her and get it framed because she has followed me throughout my career.

"This is the one thing she wanted for me more than most. She lives in Epsom now and that's not far from London.

"It's a shame she wasn't able to make it but I was thinking of her."

Mackail-Smith may only be days into his Scotland career but he already feels at home in Levein's squad.

Morale within the camp is strong after last week's bonding session in La Manga and the Peterborough star was welcomed into the ranks with open arms when he linked up with the group in London just 24 hours before kick-off.

Mackail-Smith knows, however, that the hard work starts now.

Levein will use the Carling Nations Cup ties against Wales and the Republic of Ireland in May to see if the striker is ready for Euro 2012 action.

And Mackail-Smith is up for the challenge. He said: "I feel even more Scottish now I've pulled on the jersey.

"To run out with the shirt on in front of my family made it a day I'll never forget. I might get easier games to impress in but you want to play against the best in the world.

"I'd love it to be like that all the time with the high profile and glamour.

"If I keep working hard I will hopefully get more Scotland call-ups and play against all sorts of different international teams."

Mackail-Smith, meanwhile, has revealed his surprise call-up has stoked up the passions of a Peterborough team-mate.

Winger George Boyd was a shock inclusion during the reign of previous manager George Burley before falling quickly back out of the scene.

But Mackail-Smith is convinced his London Road colleague can reclaim a place in the national set-up by forcing Levein to give him a chance.

He said: "I spoke to Boydie about Scotland and he's doing the best he can to get back into the squad.

"He has been in great form this season and has scored eight goals in his last eight games.

"So he's pushing as hard as he can for a call-up and it would be great to have him in the side along with me.

"George could still do a job if he keeps doing what he's doing and banging in goals from midfield.

"If he does that there should be no stopping him."

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