Stark resigned to losing Rhodes

Scotland Under-21s face Belgium U21s on Tuesday night, with coach Billy Stark already bracing himself for the loss of Jordan Rhodes next month.

Last Updated: 13/08/12 at 18:44

Stark: Young Scots host Belgium

Stark: Young Scots host Belgium

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Stark expects to be without his star man for Scotland U21s' crucial UEFA European Championship qualifying double-header against Luxembourg and Austria in September.

Rhodes - who netted eight goals for Stark's side and 40 for Huddersfield last season - has been drafted into Craig Levein's squad for Scotland's friendly against Australia.

Stark knows an impressive display on Wednesday could see Rhodes retain his place in the senior squad ahead of the two World Cup qualifiers against Serbia and Macedonia in September.

Those games clash with the young Scots, who sit second top of their own qualifying group, three points behind leaders Holland, with two vital games to go.

Asked about Rhodes' involvement, Stark said: "I don't know, I don't think you can be sure.

"If he scores a hat-trick against Australia then I'm sure there will be pressure on Craig to pick him.

"He deserves his chance with the big squad, there is no doubt about that after a phenomenal season last year.

"The opportunity was there for Craig to have a look at him in this Australia friendly."

The Scots are the only undefeated side in their group and Stark has no complaints about their performances so far, which have kept their hopes of reaching the play-offs alive.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's friendly against Belgium, he said: "In the whole competition of 52 teams, I think there are maybe five or six who are unbeaten and we are one of them.

"What a great statistic that is for us.

"Sure, we would like to have turned a couple of those draws into wins but we have acquitted ourselves really well and I couldn't be any more delighted with the boys.

"We have given ourselves an opportunity.

"If we can get to that last game with a live chance of qualifying, then it's a cup final.

"I would have bit your hand off to be in this position at the outset of the competition."

Meanwhile, Stark has been encouraged to see future prospects, Barrie McKay and Lewis McLeod, being handed their chance at Rangers this season.

Boss Ally McCoist is keen to utilise his younger players in the Irn-Bru Third Division and the teenage duo have both featured in their three games so far.

Stark said: "A lot of my under-21 players are usually farmed out to Second and Third Division clubs to get first-team experience.

"In terms of those two forcing their way in at Rangers, I think the fact that it is the Third Division has allowed Ally to blood them and give them games.

"It's a terrible situation for Rangers but for those young boys it's affording them an opportunity to get into the first team.

"If they are good enough, they are old enough. Even though they're younger ones, that's not to say they can't make that jump.

"Sometimes there is a chance to get the really young ones in and give them an opportunity if they have been doing particularly well.

"If they keep playing in Rangers' first team in the coming months, that tells you how well they are doing."

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