The absence of Mikey Johnston in the Scotland Under-20s squad yesterday named for the forthcoming Toulon tournament is down to an injury. Insult, meanwhile, is not feared by Scot Gemmill over the Celtic winger’s commitment to his homeland – despite a report that the Republic of Ireland are pushing to poach the 19-year-old.
The loss to the Republic of James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady – both born and raised Scots, with Scottish parents – has raised fears over where alleged approaches by representatives of the FAI to Celtic, Johnston and his family could lead. Gemmill, though, has no such concerns over the allegiances of a player recently linked with Chelsea before he made an impressive senior debut and signed a new three-year deal with Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Gemmill’s last conversation with Johnston came during the under-19s’ unsuccessful bid to progress from the elite round of their European Championship at a tournament in the Czech Republic six weeks ago, a month before Ireland’s interest emerged.
“I understand it would be a big story if Ireland were looking at Michael but I haven’t felt it necessary to speak to him about it,” said Gemmill, pictured.
“I’m sure he will be really disappointed not to be coming to Toulon with us. The thing with Michael is that he has been involved in the Scotland set-up for a long time.
“I can remember Mikey travelling with the under-15s to Switzerland. It was my first trip as a national youth team coach and I don’t think there’s any question he wants to play for Scotland. He is really strong [this] season and forced his way into the reckoning with his manager which he deserves unbelievable credit for because Celtic are such a big club.”
Scotland’s first appearance in the prestigious Toulon tournament for two decades will pit them against Brazil on 3 June. Gemmill isn’t thinking of that or the final group game against Indonesia three days later, though. His full concentration is on opening opponent Czech Republic on 27 May.
Toulon will see Gemmill paired with new assistant Peter Grant after the Fulham head of development’s appointment.
“We think Peter’s the right man for the job. He ticks a lot of boxes in terms of the level he’s worked at with young elite players,” said Gemmil of the former Celtic midfielder, Norwich City manager and assistant with Celtic, Bournemouth and Birmingham.
“His CV is really strong, he’s worked with a lot of top managers. I didn’t know him but it’s important to not only work with people who you know.”