An 'old man' of the Scotland set-up at 30 - but Stuart Armstrong is ready to play his part in helping Steve Clarke's young guns fulfil their potential
For the relatively fresh-faced Stuart Armstrong, it has come as something of a surprise to find himself established as one of the veterans of the Scotland squad.
In the group of players on duty for the current round of international fixtures, only 39-year-old goalkeeper Craig Gordon and the defensive duo of Liam Cooper and Grant Hanley – albeit both of them only by a matter of months – are of a more mature vintage than the 30-year-old Southampton midfielder.
"I’m an old man!,” said Armstrong with a wry grin. But with age comes experience and the former Celtic player, who first broke into the senior Scotland set-up five years ago, admits he feels the responsibility of passing his knowledge of the international scene on to those now emerging under Steve Clarke’s management.
“Yeah, a little bit,” he said. “I don’t feel too different than I did years ago, but obviously when I look around and see a lot of young players and a lot of young faces then I realise I am a little bit older now. I just try and help out the team when I can with a little bit of experience and just try to do my job when I am asked.
“I don’t know (if they are happy to take that on board). You would have to ask them! I think as an attacking player, I can only speak for myself. I just try and do as much as I can when I am on the pitch. Hopefully, that influences the players around me.”
Armstrong earned his 34th cap as he returned to the starting line-up for Wednesday night’s 2-0 UEFA Nations League win over Armenia at Hampden, his contribution including an assist for 23-year-old Anthony Ralston to score his first goal for his country in only his second appearance. With Aaron Hickey (19), Nathan Patterson (20), Billy Gilmour (21), Lewis Ferguson (22), David Turnbull (22) and Allan Campbell (23) also in the squad, Armstrong is encouraged by the manner in which they are enhancing Scotland’s strength and options.
"It was good to see Tony Ralston playing behind me against Armenia,” he added. “You can see how far he has come as a football player. I thought he was excellent. He took his goal magnificently well.
"So I think there is a nice blend in the team at the moment with experience and youthful energy. I don’t think they’re coming in only as fresh faces, you can see the quality when they do come on in games and the impact they have on the team."
Scotland will look to continue their bright start to Group B1 of the Nations League when they face Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Saturday before the trip to take on Armenia again in Yerevan next Tuesday.
“When you want to freshen up the team, which you have to when the fixtures are so tight, the quality of the team doesn’t weaken,” said Armstrong. “That is a great thing. We have another two fixtures to look forward to and the rotation of the squad is very important.
"Everyone was pleased with the performance against Armenia. Even if it was ugly, we would have been happy with the three points. But it wasn’t like that, we definitely showed some good moments.”
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