Scot Gemmill last week named a new-look Scotland U21 squad for the team’s friendly double header against Northern Ireland, with 11 first-time call-ups among the 23-man group.
The young team face Northern Ireland in Belfast on Thursday 22nd September, with the ‘return leg’ taking place three days later at the SMiSA Stadium in Paisley. The friendlies signal the start of a new cycle for the U21s following the conclusion of the 2023 European Championship qualifying campaign and will act as preparation for the 2025 qualifying stage which starts next year.
Who stays on?
Just five players remain from the previous squad which ended the 2023 campaign on a relatively positive note despite finishing second bottom in their group, picking up two draws away from home against Belgium and Denmark in June. Elliot Anderson of Newcastle, Leon King of Rangers, Boston United’s Sam Long, Dundee defender Josh Mulligan, and Connor Smith of Hearts have all remained in Gemmill’s plans despite the new era beginning. Verona defender Josh Doig also returns to the squad looking to add to his six caps after missing the last camp.
Who drops out?
Since the last round of matches in June, 17 of the 22 players included in Gemmill’s previous squad have dropped out to make way for the new crop of young talent. Many of those not receiving the call this time around have become too old for inclusion, whilst others have sustained injuries or found club game time hard to come by. Among them are Livingston’s Stephen Kelly, who scored to put Scotland 1-0 up against Denmark in June, Glenn Middleton, who found the net six times for the U21s since 2018, and Aberdeen’s Connor Barron, whom Dons boss Jim Goodwin estimates will remain side-lined by injury until late December.
Who comes in?
A number of players have made the natural progression from Billy Stark’s U19 side, while 16-year-old duo Ben Doak and Rory Wilson have jumped up from the U17s. The pair were involved in Brian McLaughlin’s side who qualified for the U17 European Championships in Israel next June, and both have made summer moves down south, with Doak joining Liverpool from Celtic and Wilson leaving Rangers for Aston Villa.
Goalkeeper Jay Hogarth joins up with the squad after making five appearances for the U19s and cementing a first-team spot by playing every minute of his ten games so far on loan at Alloa from Rangers. Defender Adam Devine has also received the nod after impressing in Stark’s side and finding himself amongst the substitutes for Rangers’ recent Premiership and Champions League ties against Celtic, Ajax and Napoli.
Attacking-wise, Gemmill has called upon Chris Mochrie who has notched a goal and an assist from midfield in his five appearances for table-topping Dunfermline so far this season, while Partick Thistle’s Cole McKinnon has also been given an opportunity to shine at U21 level following his two goals and assist in six appearances for the Jags.
With 11 first-timers called up, Head Coach Scot Gemmill told the Scottish FA website: “It’s really an exciting time and a big responsibility to work with largely a new group of players and give them that opportunity to maximise their potential.
“These games against Northern Ireland will be excellent preparation for the competitive matches next year, and particularly for the new players, it’s a chance to show them how we work and what’s expected of them tactically.”
Full squad list:
Elliot Anderson Newcastle United
Kieron Bowie Northampton Town (on loan from Fulham)
Flynn Clarke Norwich City
Tommy Conway Bristol City
Matthew Craig Tottenham Hotspur
Michael Craig Reading
Lucas De Bolle Hamilton Academical (on loan from Newcastle United)
Adam Devine Rangers
Josh Doig Hellas Verona
Ben Doak Liverpool
Jay Hogarth Alloa Athletic (on loan from Rangers)
Leon King Rangers
Sam Long Boston United (on loan from Lincoln City)
Connor McAvoy Fulham
Cole McKinnon Partick Thistle (on loan from Rangers)
Stuart McKinstry* Motherwell
Chris Mochrie* Dunfermline Athletic (on loan from Dundee United)
Adam Montgomery St Johnstone (on loan from Celtic)
Josh Mulligan Dundee
Lewis Neilson* Heart of Midlothian
Cieran Slicker Rochdale (on loan from Manchester City)
Connor Smith* Heart of Midlothian
Rory Wilson* Aston Villa
*Denotes Scottish FA JD Performance School graduate
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