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Scot Gemmill names the biggest attribute his young players need to play for Scotland

Scotland U21s manager Scot Gemmill has admitted that attitude is the biggest attribute needed among his young squad for them to progress to Steve Clarke’s senior team. 

The gaffer, who has previously taken charge of Scotland’s U17s and U19s, believes there is plenty of talent within the ranks of the U21s. “I’m very confident in the quality we have within the squad”, he said.

“We feel we’ve got strength in depth; the squad have shown that in recent games.

“You don’t get to play for Scotland at any level if you haven’t got the technical level. 

“You have to have everything; I don’t think there’s any space for weakness anymore.”

The side is due to take on Kazakhstan U21s this Thursday at St. Mirren’s SMISA Stadium in Euro U21 qualifying. Currently, the Scots sit second in their group, three points behind leaders Spain.

Gemmill is under no illusions of how tough a task the upcoming opposition will prove to be, admitting that on the night, his players must play with speed and intensity: “We have to really focus on playing Kazakhstan on Thursday”, he said.

“If they play 5-4-1, we do have to move the ball quickly and if the pitch isn’t perfect, the players have to show their level.”

Two key men in the team are right-back Max Johnston and centre-forward Tommy Conway. 

Johnston is enjoying life in Austria playing for Sturm Graz while his attacking counterpart Conway has scored some notable goals for Bristol City this season.

Both have been involved with the first team at some point in the past, and Gemmill thinks they have what it takes to become regular members of the A squad. 

He said: “They are good examples of players who are technically good, physically good, but they’ve got very good attitudes.

“They’re really switched on young players, they know exactly what they’re trying to do. They know that they need to do it consistently.

“100%, of course [they could move up to the first-team]. I think we’ve got many players, that’s the responsibility for me and the staff, that we’re giving the opportunities to the right players.”

While they have bright futures, the focus of the duo will now be on the colossal clash with the Kazakhs in a few days. Although Gemmill prioritises the players’ progress and development over results, it is hard to get away from the fact the U21s are not far from creating their own bit of history. 

The last time Scotland U21s qualified for the Euros was in 1996, but all involved will undoubtedly have one eye on next summer’s tournament in Slovakia: “There’s no question playing at the major finals is incredible preparation for playing in the men’s A squad”, quipped Gemmill.

“There’s no doubt the calibre of games at the finals is really, really top level.”

Making it to such a prestigious level would capture the attention of the nation, but some members of the team may have ambitions of going to Germany. Indeed, Gemmill outlined how big of a motivator the upcoming tournament should be for his players because it is realistic that one or two of them could play at it. 

He said: “They are all intelligent players, they know how close they are [to the first team] and they know how closely Steve [Clarke] watches our games.

“It is a huge carrot right there in front of them and they have to use these games as all the games, anything can happen in that regard. 

“It is for the players to show [quality] on a consistent basis, it is fair to say they have all shown it. It is the challenge for all young players, you have to do it consistently between now and the end of the season and I would say that applies to the full squad as well, I have heard Steve say that himself.”

Showing such quality that impresses Clarke is something the youngsters will aim to do on Thursday. Kick-off in Paisley for the crunch match is at 7 pm UK time. 

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