Scotland’s teenage winger Oliver Burke should be unleashed against England at Wembley tomorrow evening, according to Paul Lambert.
The youngster’s £13 million move to Leipzig from Nottingham Forest in August made him the first Scotland international to win a high-profile switch to German football since Lambert joined Borussia Dortmund, with whom he went on to win the Champions League, two decades ago.
The new Wolverhampton manager maintains that his German experience, aged 27 and then boasting only two caps, was transformative in allowing him to cope with the rigours of representing his country and all top-level football.
The 51-year-old believes it can be likewise for Burke, though he despairs at the attempts to paint the Fife-born attacker as Scotland’s answer to Real Madrid and Welsh galactico Gareth Bale.
“I would definitely play him [at Wembley] because he has something not too many players have, which is speed with and without the ball. No-one likes to play against that,” Lambert said. “Burke can hurt teams. Put the ball over the top of their back four and I don’t know who could catch him. He’s a genuine threat now and that will increase when he gains experience and composure.
“I think the move [to Germany] is brilliant for him, the best thing he could have done for his football career is move there. I’m not long back from Leipzig, I was over looking at their training and their training ground. He might not have played as many minutes as he would have liked to have done, but he’s at a team that is absolutely flying at the minute and are second in the Bundesliga. They are wiping out everything that’s in front of them, and he will learn more there in six months than what he would do in a couple of years in England.
“I wouldn’t have the career I did if I hadn’t moved to Germany. That made me. That was the one that set me off. But I wouldn’t have liked to have moved there and not played. I wanted to play and once I got into the team and found my feet, the belief became ten-fold. That’s why coming back and playing for the national team became easy for me.”
Lambert understands it is easy to get carried away about the 6ft 2in imposing forward’s abilities when Scotland are so desperate for a genuine international class player. To be burdened by the Bale similarities, which James McFadden made recently, should be avoided at all costs, though.
“I watched Burke against Blackburn when he came on. Listen, I’ve read about the comparisons with Gareth Bale and that’s unfair on him,” said Lambert, who had a spell at Ewood Park last season. “Bale is playing with one of the biggest clubs in the world and scoring goals, playing fantastic for Wales, is an experienced lad and is a genuine world class player.
“Oliver Burke, though, is only a baby, he’s only a kid. He’s got the speed and the physicality and I love those attributes. I think he’s a threat, potentially he could be fantastic for us. But everybody’s got to give him a chance.
“First and foremost we have to get the ball to him. He’s going to need players around him to help him. But to be fair he’s also got to help his team-mates. I don’t, though, think we can put too much pressure on him at this stage of his career – single him out as the guy to make things happen.
“I think it’s exciting for Scotland that he’s burst on the scene. Everybody will be anxious to see how he does, how his career goes.”
l Paul Lambert was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is a proud sponsor of the Scotland national team.