Scotland Under-21s: Scot Gemmill makes changes to find next Oliver Burke

By David CurrieReporting Scotland presenter
Oliver Burke in action for Leipzig against Koln
Oliver Burke has moved to the Bundesliga from Nottingham Forest

Scot Gemmill hopes making sweeping changes to his Scotland Under-21 squad will help others follow Oliver Burke into the full international set-up.

The Leipzig winger has won three caps at the age of 19.

Now Gemmill has given 10 players their first call-up to his squad in the hope they can make similar strides.

"Oliver Burke is the obvious example, and Kieran Tierney as well, of players who were recently playing for the under-19s," said the new head coach.

"That's the challenge to all young players and we'll do everything we can to help them."

Gemmill, who took charge after the Scots fell out of the running in their European Championship qualifying group under predecessor Ricky Sbragia, had worked with Burke with the under-19s.

"I think he's got everything," he said after handing 10 players their first under-21 call-ups for next month's games against Iceland and Macedonia. "I think that's what makes his potential so outstanding.

"Not only is he physically very impressive, his pace is impressive, but he's also a real grounded individual with a really good attitude.

Chelsea's Ruben Sammut with the FA Youth Trophy
Ruben Sammut helped Chelsea win the FA Youth Cup in April

"You can be as fast as you want, but if you haven't got the intelligence or ambition to go with it then you are not going to get very far.

"From my short time working with him, he's got a really good attitude and he's willing to listen and wants to get better."

Gemmill explained that, with the Scots unable to reach next summer's finals in Poland, his focus was on those eligible for the Euro 2019 qualifiers, which begin next September.

"Most of them have played at younger age levels, so now it is about giving them the opportunity to see if they can play at under-21 level," he said.

"I am very confident they can do it, but you never really know until they are into it to see how they react and it is a real challenge for them to step up and keep progressing.

"The under-17s have done well in recent seasons. They have reached the finals for the last three years and did very well last week in Portugal in the first round of qualification - beat Portugal in Portugal.

"But it is about trying to do it at older age levels as well and a lot of these players have shown they can compete against the best players in Europe and this is a new challenge for them to show they can do it another stage further."

New generation takes shape

Of Gemmill's first selection, only Hearts defenders Jordan McGhee and Liam Smith, Motherwell midfielder Chris Cadden, Celtic midfielder Liam Henderson, Aberdeen midfielder Craig Storie and Swansea City striker Oliver McBurnie have played previously for the under-21s.

However, all have been involved at younger levels.

Both goalkeepers - Ryan Fulton (Liverpool, on loan to Chesterfield) and Mark Hurst (St Johnstone) - have yet to play at under-21 level.

Defenders Kyle Cameron (Newcastle United, on loan to Mansfield Town), Alex Iacovitti (Nottingham Forest, on loan to Mansfield Town) and Zak Jules and Jake Sheppard (both Reading) also make the step up.

Midfielders Greg Docherty (Hamilton Academical), James Jones (Crewe Alexandra), Aidan Nesbitt (Celtic, on loan to Greenock Morton) and Ruben Sammut (Chelsea), plus forwards Ryan Hardie (Rangers, on loan to St Mirren) and Craig Wighton (Dundee) will also be hoping to make their under-21 debuts.

Of those who had dropped out of the under-21 set-up because of their age, Gemmill "would expect a few of them" to eventually break into Gordon Strachan's full squad.

Scotland Under-21 squad to face Iceland (5 October) and Macedonia (11 October)

Goalkeepers: Ryan Fulton (Liverpool, on loan to Chesterfield), Mark Hurst (St Johnstone).

Defenders: Kyle Cameron (Newcastle United, on loan to Mansfield Town), Alex Iacovitti (Nottingham Forest, on loan to Mansfield Town), Zak Jules (Reading), Jordan McGhee (Hearts, on loan to Middlesbrough), Jake Sheppard (Reading), Liam Smith (Hearts, on loan to Raith Rovers).

Midfielders: Chris Cadden (Motherwell), Greg Docherty (Hamilton Academical), Liam Henderson (Celtic), James Jones (Crewe Alexandra), Aidan Nesbitt (Celtic, on loan to Greenock Morton), Ruben Sammut (Chelsea), Craig Storie (Aberdeen).

Forwards: Ryan Hardie (Rangers, on loan to St Mirren), Oliver McBurnie (Swansea City), Craig Wighton (Dundee).