Scotland’s UEFA Nations League campaign has so far been a rousing success. The recent come-from-behind victory over Ireland showed just how far Steve Clarke’s side has come. They looked to be slipping toward defeat when Irish captain John Egan gave the visitors a 1-0 lead at Hampden on Friday night. But this Tartan Army is made of sterner stuff and roared back in the second half. Goals from former Celtic defender Jack Hendry drew the hosts level and Ryan Christie’s penalty eight minutes from time completed the turnaround, earning a precious three points. Oddschecker, which compares odds and provides free football predictions, had given Scotland a shot at promotion to League A during this Nations League campaign, and it looks as though that could be a very real possibility.
When the competition first got underway, the Scots were still reeling from a resounding 3-1 defeat at home to Ukraine, which halted their hopes of a first FIFA World Cup appearance since 1998. Wales would eventually seal their invite to football’s biggest party, leaving Scottish fans dreaming of what could have been. But in recent months, they have put those thoughts firmly in the rear view mirror. A double over Armenia as well as victories at home to Ukraine and Ireland have left the Scots in pole position to secure safe passage to the upper echelons of the Nations League.
These two young starlets have played their part…
Billy Gilmour – Brighton & Hove Albion – 21
When Billy Gilmour burst on the scene during Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Liverpool in the FA Cup back in March 2020, it appeared that the sky was the limit and that Scotland had a potential superstar on their hands. The following year, the former Rangers youngster forced his way into the international setup, playing 76 minutes during the 0-0 draw with England at Euro 2020. Since then, however, his career has stagnated somewhat.
Despite a disappointing loan spell at Norwich City – where Gilmour made 24 appearances during the season the Canaries were relegated from the Premier League – the young midfielder kept his place in Scotland’s starting eleven. He started every game when the Tartan Army finished second in their World Cup qualifying group. In the Nations League, however, he has found playing time a little harder to come by. Gilmour did start during the 3-0 defeat against Ireland in Dublin, as well as the 4-1 victory over Armenia in Yerevan, where he shone brightly.
But with 15 international and 36 Premier League appearances under his belt at the age of just 21, it’s clear for all to see that the future is very bright for Billy Gilmour.
Aaron Hickey – Brentford – 20
One man that Steve Clarke seems adamant to get into his starting eleven is Brentford’s Aaron Hickey. And it’s clear to see why. The Scottish left-back shone in Italy’s Serie A last season, making 36 appearances and scoring five goals playing alongside Marko Arnautović at Bologna. That form prompted Premier League side Brentford to fork out £15 million for him in the summer, and he has also hit the ground running in West London.
The former Hearts youngster has featured in all but one of the Bees’ games in the English top flight and has been one of their standout performers during their solid start to the new campaign. That has prompted Scotland manager Clarke to try and find a spot for Hickey in his starting eleven. The problem for the player, however, is that Scotland already have two of the world’s finest left back’s battling it out for a starting berth, namely Liverpool’s Andy Robertson and Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney.
As such, Clarke has been forced to try Hickey in a number of different positions during the Nations League. He had a 14-minute cameo on the left-wing during the 2-0 win over Armenia at Hampden and has twice featured at right back in the victories over Ukraine and Ireland. It’s obvious that Hickey will be a part of Scotland’s plans for many years to come, but the question right now seems to be: which position?
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