Smith opens door for Scotland outcast O'Connor

February 16, 2007

Scotland boss Alex McLeish has paved the way for Garry O'Connor to return to the international set-up - but not until after next month's Euro 2008 double-header.

The Lokomotiv Moscow striker's agent yesterday issued a public apology to the Scottish Football Association and Scotland fans over his failure to meet with the squad ahead of the trip to Ukraine in October.

McLeish told the Scottish Daily Express: 'The bottom line was that O'Connor had to apologise to the fans, the SFA and his fellow international players whom he let down, not to me or my assistant Andy Watson as we were not involved at the time.

'He is a young player who made a big mistake but now he wants to move on and we well think again about him.

'He hasn't played for a while so doesn't come into contention for the qualifying games next month.

'But like any other player we will monitor his form and progress once the Russian domestic season starts in March.'

The former Hibernian striker did not show at the team hotel the day after playing as a substitute in Scotland's 1-0 victory over France on October 7.

O'Connor failed to contact then Scotland manager Walter Smith to explain his actions.

He was left out of the Scotland squad for their gathering last week under his former Hibs manager McLeish.

At the time O'Connor revealed his partner Lisa had struggled to settle in Russia since his £1.6million move from Easter Road in March 2006.

Former Hearts midfielder Gary Mackay issued an open letter for his client.

It read: 'I unreservedly wish to offer my apologies for what can only be described as letting everyone down.

'My only defence is that there were extenuating circumstances in my life at the time which I have great difficulty in talking about.

'Ultimately, on reflection, I realise that this is no excuse for my behaviour and, should I be given a second chance, I intend to grab it with both hands.

'With this in mind, I have contacted the present management team to make them aware of my desire to play for my country again if selected.'