GLASGOW (AFP) - Scotland manager Craig Levein has told former captain Stephen McManus he needs to sort out his disappointing club form before he can return to the international fold.
The 27-year-old was the big-name casualty of Levein's new reign after he was omitted from his 24-man squad to face the Czech Republic in next week's friendly - a country Scotland also meet in the upcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers.
McManus was a regular for club and country at the start of the season but has suffered a major fall from grace in recent months.
He was dumped by new Celtic boss Tony Mowbray and shipped out to English Championship side Middlesbrough in January before Levein delivered the latest snub.
But the new Scotland boss insists he has done McManus a favour by taking him out of the international firing line.
"It's down to form with Stephen," said Levein.
"He didn't play for the greater part of the season and he's now gone down to Middlesbrough.
"I think it will do him good to just concentrate on his club career. He still has a part to play in the future for Scotland," said Levein.
"I think he has had a crisis of confidence after not playing for Celtic. He's now gone to Middlesbrough and it's a new club for him.
"He has got to take in the new surroundings and new league so I thought this was the opportunity to bring in others."
If that was a shock, the decision to leave the evergreen David Weir out was perhaps less of a surprise.
The Rangers skipper partnered McManus in Scotland's last competitive fixture - the 1-0 defeat to Holland in September - and is still a regular for his club.
And while Levein refused to retire the 40-year-old stopper, he does admit he is looking to the future.
"I'm not shutting the door on anyone," he said.
"But David is 40 now and I think that if I felt that we needed him we could ask him to play. But looking forward now, if we do manage to get into the finals in 2012, that might be beyond David at the age of 42 or 43."
While Weir and McManus miss out, Levein has handed Andy Webster a recall and called up Dundee United central-defensive partner Garry Kenneth for the first time.
"Andy has had terrible luck with injury," said Levein. "But he has good experience at international level and I know all about his qualities.
"I have always felt that Garry has all the attributes to play international football. He has lacked consistency but that's something he has found this season."
The new manager has made finding a strong defensive unit a priority, while he will hope that the likes of the returning Kris Boyd can sparkle in attack.
In midfield, Bristol City?s Paul Hartley has been recalled, while Graeme Dorrans and Charlie Adam have earned call-ups after shining for West Brom and Blackpool respectively.
Levein insists form is important but will be not the only criteria when he selects future squads.
He added: "Some people are picked on form. Graham Dorrans and Charlie Adams are examples of that. It'd be difficult to apply the same rule to every player as there are different reasons why players are in the squad."
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