Glenn Middleton out to end 25 years of hurt for Scotland under-21s as achieves career milestone at Tynecastle
But the winger has his sights firmly fixed on a more collective achievement as tries to lead his country to the finals of the UEFA under-21 Championship for the first time since 1996.
Middleton will captain the Scots in their second Group I qualifier against Denmark, looking to build on the encouraging display and 1-1 draw away to Turkey last month.
The Rangers player, currently enjoying another loan spell at St Johnstone, played for Scotland in their three consecutive participations at the UEFA under-17 Championship finals from 2015 to 2017.
Middleton has racked up 49 appearances in the national youth set-up since making his competitive debut for the under-16s back in 2014.
“It has taken me a little bit by surprise to be told this will be my 50th game but it means a lot to me to get to that mark,” said the 21-year-old.
“I’m very grateful to be in that position and to do that sort of thing. It also comes back to me being very grateful to our coach Scot Gemmill who has always been brilliant with me since
the first time I came away with the youth team.
“I remember I was genuinely so excited when he first called me up when I was at Norwich City.
“I’ve been called up quite a lot and when you’re younger, especially, it seems like you have about five games in a week at younger age tournaments.
“But nevertheless, 50 games is something I’m genuinely quite proud of and it means a lot every time I join up with Scotland.
“It means a lot to all of the lads, no matter what age you are - when you come away with Scotland, then you’ve always got that in common.
“You always make mates when you’re away, especially with the Under-17s when we had a great team. That was when we reached the three Euro finals in a row. There are a lot of similar boys in this group, so hopefully we can do the same.”
Thursday’s game against top seeds Denmark is the first of four consecutive home fixtures for Scotland in a group which also includes Belgium and Kazakhstan.
“That’s massive for us,” said Middleton. “It’s a real opportunity to build momentum. We are at the same training pitch every day, the same hotel. We know the routine we need to get into.
“With it being the second or third time we have come away as a team, I think it’s all starting to come together in terms of how Scot wants the team to play. We are seeing the details day-by-day and it makes a difference when you pull together as one team.
“It’s my third campaign at under-21 level and in the previous two, it was quite a new team with younger boys in the team. But there were moments where the game plan Scot had put together started to come together. You could see it clicking and it showed how much the game plan really does matter.
“Denmark will be a tough opponent but we are at home, hopefully in front of a good crowd, and we’re ready for it.”
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