Stark wants flying start to U21s’ Euro campaign

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BILLY Stark is looking for his Scotland Under-21 side to get off to a flyer when they begin their 2015 European Under-21 Championship qualification campaign against Luxembourg on 25 March in Paisley.

The Scots will also take on the Netherlands, Slovakia and Georgia in Group Three but Stark is aware that his side need to take all three points in the opener at St Mirren Park.

In the 2013 qualification campaign, Scotland beat Luxembourg 5-1 away from home before winning 3-0 in the return game, albeit the young Scots narrowly missed out on a play-off spot.

After naming his squad at Hampden yesterday, Stark said: “The nature of the competition is that there is little margin for error so you want to get off to a good start in the campaign, particularly when it is a home game.

“We started with a 0-0 against Bulgaria the last time and you always thought you were chasing it after that.

“It is an opportunity to get a good start. Luxembourg are not regarded as giants of the group, that is for sure. But we know from past experience that they can be a tough nut to crack – it took a good hour in the last game to do that. They pretty much have the same squad and they will have that extra experience.

“But, if we want to be regarded as genuine contenders, then these are the games that we must win and I am very optimistic.”

Stark believes a cutting edge in front of goal allied to a bit more concentration at the back will go a long way to aiding their qualification hopes.

“In the last campaign,we lost our unbeaten record in the last minute of the last game,” he said. “So there was a sense that the squad was very determined and resolute in the way they went about the games. We had Jordan Rhodes, who is as good a goalscorer as you can get, but we couldn’t win games that we drew and that was ultimately the difference.”

Stark handed 19-year-old Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser his first under-21 call-up and included Chelsea forward Islam Feruz. Stark said: “Ryan started the season very well with Aberdeen and has been involved in the last half-dozen games at his new club Bournemouth. He is in the penetrating winger mould and his club manager has been really happy with him.

“Feruz is an explosive player and really comes alive in the final third.”