High hopes for Manchester United's Scots teen Ethan Hamilton
The young Scots kick off their group this morning in the city of Zlin with a game against Austria, with two other games to come against the hosts and Hungary. The winner of the group qualifies for the finals in Georgia in July.
Scotland coach Ricky Sbragia admits he has high hopes for the latest young Scot to emerge from Old Trafford, with Hamilton a product of the famous Hutchison Vale club in Edinburgh, for which Fletcher also played as a youngster.
Hamilton, 18, joined United two years ago and has already been fast-tracked into the reserve team. He is a big admirer of Fletcher, who is now at West Bromwich Albion after over 250 appearances for United.
Sbragia, who was at Old Trafford as a coach under Sir Alex Ferguson when Fletcher was beginning to make his mark, believes there’s no better role model Hamilton could have picked.
Sbragia said: “He’s a talent, there’s no doubt about it. He went from Hutchie Vale to Man United and They’ve got high hopes for him. He’s developed as a man. I met him and his family a few weeks ago and had a chat with him. He loves it there. He wants to come, which is really important. He wants to play for Scotland, he’s a lovely lad. At United they say he is a great pro. He needs now to play international football.
“He’s box to box. He’s got a great physique and technically he’s very good. He knows the game. The great thing for me is that he is happy down there. His accommodation is good, he wants to learn, his education has been good. His mother is down there living with him. So in general he’s in a good place.
“He’s definitely got a chance at Man United. He’ll be given an opportunity, he’s also played for the under-23s there. When I phoned him and asked him to come to Andorra for the [previous] qualifying campaign he was over the moon. I’d seen him four or five times and was hoping he would say yes and was delighted when he did.
“He said his inspiration is Darren Fletcher and Fletch is everything you want a footballer to be. He came and played for the reserves when I was there and it wasn’t a problem. He’s a great example and I think he has spoken to him as well when he first came down. If you ever want to model yourself on someone as a pro, it would be Darren.
“The great thing about Darren was his attitude. I can remember him coming down to the reserves. You didn’t have to tell Darren he had to play at that level – he knew he had to keep his standards high. And if he didn’t do that he was stopping the development of a young player. Even now he’s still playing and enjoying it.
“Darren Fletcher has nothing to prove. He is an icon. And I hope one day he brings all the knowledge he’s got into coaching.”
Scotland have missed out at this stage in recent years having fallen short in Croatia, Austria England, Belgium.
But Sbragia, who stepped down as coach of the under-21s last year and is now in charge of the under-19s, is optimistic they can go one better and qualify for the first time in 11 years
He is able to call upon the likes of Harry Souttar from Stoke City, Falkirk’s Tony Gallacher, who was linked with a move to Barcelona earlier this year and promising Old Firm duo Anthony Ralston and Liam Burt.
Sbragia said: “There are no easy games now at this level, that’s something I learnt quickly in this job. We know Austria, for example, will be a really good side. And our first game, which is against them, will be the important one. That’s always the case in these Elite Round qualifiers.
“But we have a good group of boys so hopefully we can do ourselves justice over here.
“We’re trying again to quality for a finals and if we can get there, it would give everyone a real boost.”