Oli McBurnie keen to repay Alex McLeish by getting first Scotland goal

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Having struck three times in his last three outings for Swansea, Oli McBurnie can sense his maiden international goal is just around the corner.

This is just as well. His 
manager, the one who has placed so much faith in him, could really do with it coming this weekend in the northern Albanian town of Shkoder.

Scotland striker Oli McBurnie is confident his first international goal will come soon. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

Scotland striker Oli McBurnie is confident his first international goal will come soon. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

McBurnie is especially keen to get off the mark as he bids to help reduce the heat being felt by Alex McLeish. The striker believes he owes his manager this much at least. Scotland must win the games against Albania and then Israel next Tuesday night to be absolutely sure of topping their Nations League group.

McLeish has included McBurnie in every squad he has picked so far. He has handed him six caps, including two starts. This tally would likely be more had McBurnie not withdrawn from the first double header of the season against Belgium and Albania due to injury.

McBurnie therefore feels a particular burden of responsibility as McLeish casts around for a potential matchwinner against Albania and Israel.

Steven Fletcher returns after more than a year on the international sidelines but McLeish clearly likes the look of McBurnie, who he played up front against Costa Rica in the first match of his second spell in charge.

McBurnie would like nothing more than to replicate his goalscoring form of late for Swansea at international level and earn Scotland three points this Saturday.

He’s sorely aware that strikers don’t get too many chances to open their account at international level.

The longer a drought continues the more the player risks being dismissed as not good enough in this testing arena. McBurnie, who McLeish, pictured, recently described as a “work in progress”, knows he won’t be handed limitless opportunities to prove he has what it takes.

“I’ll be eternally grateful for the opportunity the manager has given me,” said McBurnie. “Ever since he’s come in, I’ve been in every squad. So personally I feel like I want to repay him for that. I also want to do as well as I can for my country whenever I get that chance.

“I think it’s coming,” he added, with reference to that elusive first goal. “As a striker, that next chance is always just around the corner. You just want to score goals. If I keep doing the right things it will come.

“You know you are not going to get five or six chances in every game so when that one chance comes you’ve got to be clinical.

“That’s one of the differences between international football and the Championship, where you are getting a lot more chances per game. As a striker your job is to score goals. That’s whether you get one chance per game or ten.”

McBurnie has already come agonisingly close to scoring for Scotland, no more so than at the Estadio Azteca, of all places. He flicked a header against a post in the 2-0 defeat to Mexico in June.

He wore the No 9 shirt that night in Mexico City and is wearing it this season for Swansea after receiving a vote of confidence from new manager Graham Potter. He has responded by scoring seven times to date as Swansea seek to return to the Premier League at the first attempt. They currently lie eighth, 
seven points adrift of leaders Norwich City.

McBurnie added: “The gaffer there has put a lot of trust and faith in me by giving me the number nine shirt and telling me I’m his main man.

“Hopefully I have repaid him with my goals, we have had some good results.

“It’s definitely a confidence boost to know the manager has that faith in you as well as your team-mates. I just want to bring that confidence up here and take it into these games.”

Being a Scotsman, albeit one who grew up in Yorkshire and is now based in Wales, means he’s had to endure plenty of mickey-taking from the locals, who have enjoyed a resurgence in their national side’s football fortunes in the last few years. Wales reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and now top their own Nations League group ahead of Denmark and the Republic of Ireland.

“Yeah, they like to bring it up a lot as well so it can be tough to take sometimes!” said McBurnie.

“To be fair there are quite a few Scots down there now so I have a bit more backup so we can fight back a bit more. But they do like to bring it up and, to be fair, you can’t take away from what they have done.

“You look at the players they have got and there are some of the highest quality, they did really well in that tournament [Euro 2016] and they have got some good young boys coming through at Swansea who are just being introduced to the team.

“So it’s good to see your friends doing well. It shows that, no matter the size of the country or the expectations people put on you can always exceed them. Wales in that tournament were a great example of that in terms of how they did and how far they got, and that gives us hope we can do the same in the future. You look at the Northern Ireland team and on paper people might think they wouldn’t do as well as they have.

“But you win a few games and you never know where it can take you.

“That’s what we need to do. We need to build a few results on top of each other and if we can do that we’ll be flying.”