Scotland could miss out on Hamilton starlet starring at Fifa U20 World Cup - and son of Scottish rugby royalty

Hamilton teenager George Stanger is starring at the Fifa World Cup for New Zeland in Poland. Joel Sked looks at the player Scotland could miss out on.

George Stanger has played for Scotland's Schoolboys but not for an Scottish FA age grades. Picture: SNS
George Stanger has played for Scotland's Schoolboys but not for an Scottish FA age grades. Picture: SNS

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Interview: Scotland rugby hero Tony Stanger on why he loves football

Go back a couple of years and there were concerns around the country regarding the lack of centre-backs ready to make the step-up to the Scotland national team.

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Press fast-forward and it is a position which the country is well-stocked for the future. John Souttar, Scott McKenna, David Bates, Stuart Findlay and Ryan Porteous are all 23 and younger with plenty of talent and promise.

Stanger played his part as Accies beat Basel in the Uefa Youth League this season. Picture: SNS

However, Scotland could be set to let a talented defender slip from their grasp. A player who performed on the European stage this season and is currently starring at the Fifa U20 World Cup in Poland. Hamilton centre-back George Stanger.

Stanger is a surname which may pique interest. It is one which is revered in rugby circles in the country.

George's dad Tony needs little introduction in egg-shaped strongholds. He is Scotland's joint record try scorer and has featured at two World Cups for the nation. But he is most fondly remembered for a moment Hugh MacDonald, writing in The Herald, labelled a "national treasure".

Back in 1990, the Six Nations was just the Five Nations, following wins over Ireland, France and Wales, England were welcomed to Murrayfield before being dispatched 13-7 for a famous win. Stanger Sr was the man who touched down to score the try which handed Scotland their last Grand Slam victory.

Nearly 30 years on, son George is making is own way in sport, but in football rather than rugby.

In another move where the 18-year-old is creating his own path he is playing for New Zealand rather than Scotland, qualifying through his Auckland-born mother Bid, who Tony met when in Australia in the early 90s.

The towering centre half was chosen by the country of his mother's birth as part of their squad for the tournament currently taking place.

Stanger, who has yet to feature for Accies, has started and finished both Group C fixtures, a 5-0 win over Honduras and 2-0 victory against Norway, ensuring progression to the last 16 with a game to spare.

In the latter game, the Hamilton starlet stifled Norway's vaunted forward Erling Haland, who completed a reported €5million move to Red Bull Salzburg in January.

Stanger's rise to start for New Zealand in the U20 World Cup only started earlier this year when his club's video analyst Keith Glendinning sent clips to NZ football, as per The Times.

It prompted an invite to travel to Auckland to train with the squad in April, having only turned out for Scotland schoolboys.

He was part of the Hamilton side which defeated Swiss giants Basel in the Uefa Youth League this season, before being knocked out by Danish outfit Midtjylland.

Stanger joined Hamilton from Stirling Albion in January 2018 before being loaned back to the Binos where his younger brother Jack plays and his dad does some coaching.

The centre-back has a very pragmatic approach to defending, while appreciating the modern aspects of his role.

He told The Times: “Always, always, always make sure you defend first, but for the modern centre-back, it’s crucial to be able to play out from the back, to have the ability and passing range to do that.”

Contracted until the end of next season, Stanger and his dad will be hoping for the player to make the step up to the first team at Hamilton.

Speaking in November, Tony said: “George is a centre-back, taller than me, and, while I’m his dad and I would say this, he’s a great athlete. I might not know a lot about football but I know a bit about coaching and, for instance, how you need to future-proof your skills.

"The world’s best centre-backs these days are all good on the ball so George tries to be. He’s not played for the first team yet. I guess there’s more risk in his position at this age than trying out a forward or a midfielder because a centre-back could cost you a goal but I hope his chance will come."

In the short term Stanger has his sights set on Uruguay on Thursday as New Zealand aim to win their group before their last-16 clash.