Football: Brown heralds dangerman Hutchison

by JOHN GREECHAN, Daily Mail

Craig Brown could not have been more supportive of Scotland's most dangerous player yesterday.

The Scotland coach allowed Don Hutchison to spend the afternoon undergoing a medical in Glasgow - the final obstacle to his £5.25million move from Sunderland to West Ham - despite imposing a strict ban on distractions ahead of Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Croatia.

He then pinpointed the goalscoring midfielder as the key player in a Premiership triumvirate - along with Craig Burley and Dominic Matteo - who could drive Scotland to Japan and South Korea next summer.

Brown, who takes his team to Belgium for an equally-important tie next Wednesday, said: 'I'm not surprised that someone would pay that amount for Don, not in today's market.'

Hutchison asked for a move after Sunderland rejected his demand for a big pay increase after just one year of his contract at the Stadium of Light.

Brown, who described him as 'the one Scotland player who the opposition fear', added: 'Sven Goran Eriksson said at one point that he would love him in the England team - and I understand why.

'Glenn Roeder phoned and asked if there was a free hour when Don could sit a medical, that the transfer had been done and this was all they wanted. I agreed on the condition that our doctor could go with him. Now I want him focused on this game.'

While Hutchison is the object of massive expectation in Scotland, Brown believes the qualities of Leeds defender Matteo and Derby County's Burley will be just as important in two games which will settle the nation's World Cup fate.

Brown said: 'I always knew Dominic Matteo was a good player but now I believe he's a great player, a complete player. He looks a great buy at £4m, he is so versatile. He is one of a few very good players we have.

'Craig Burley is a huge goal threat for us and, at this stage of the season, he always has an extra edge.

'No disrespect to Derby County but he was a big signing for them, he was carrying them on his shoulders when he first went down there and he saved them from relegation.

'He's not used to being man-marked, which is what the Croatian coach has hinted at, but he is really up for it.'

Victories over Croatia and Belgium would effectively guarantee Scotland's passage to the Finals and Brown said: 'This is the most difficult game in our run-in.

'I have no fears about Belgium. They are more predictable, they grind away. Croatia have a bit of flair, a touch of the unexpected and they can be swashbuckling.'

Injuries have stretched Croatian resources enough to force the recall of former West Ham defender Igor Stimac, prompting current Hammers player Christian Dailly to say: 'Forget his age, he is a great player - I wish he wasn't playing.'

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