Ricky Sbragia: U-21 squad packed with talent

Ricky Sbragia believes he has “an abundance of talent” to call upon as he bids to lead Scotland to their first European under-21 Championship finals since 1996.
Ricky Sbragia wants his players to go out and put on a show. Picture: SNSRicky Sbragia wants his players to go out and put on a show. Picture: SNS
Ricky Sbragia wants his players to go out and put on a show. Picture: SNS

The young Scots have made a mixed start to their qualifying group for the 2017 tournament in Poland with four points collected from their opening three games.

It gives this evening’s fixture against Ukraine at St Mirren Park the look of a must-win assignment even at this stage of the campaign.

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But despite being without three key players – the injured pair of Ryan Christie and Ryan Fraser, along with the suspended Ryan Gauld – Sbragia is upbeat about the quality of his squad and their prospects.

“I think they’re capable, they’ve got the ability,” he said. “They are playing football at a good level as well.

“I have had high hopes for them since we came together on the first day. The core of the squad is very good. The last time we looked at it, there were about 42 players out there we felt we could pick from and not feel weakened. So there is an abundance of talent out there.

“When we started the qualifying campaign in Northern Ireland in September, the thought of qualifying was the first thing on our mind. I want to be a winner, the players want to be winners.

“We want to go to the next stage and see how good we are but sometimes luck goes against you. We’ve got an extremely important game now against a very good Ukraine side.

“It’s an ideal opportunity for our players to go and show the public how good we are, the young talent that is there in Scottish football.”

Sbragia has been joined by Gordon Strachan this week and has had his own input into the Scotland manager’s proposed revamp of youth football and player development in the country, along with performance director Brian McClair.

“I don’t think it’s Gordon’s blueprint, I think he would be embarrassed at that,” said Sbragia. “Brian has come into the job of performance director and he’s obviously spoken to people at the clubs and probably recognised it needs a change.

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“We back it 100 per cent. He’s discussed it with us all and we gave him our thoughts. There must be some sort of changes and I think Brian will do that and in general it will be good for Scottish football.”