Scot Gemmill hopes Oliver Burke is fit for Scotland v England

Oliver Burke in action for Scotland U21s against the Netherlands. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS
Oliver Burke in action for Scotland U21s against the Netherlands. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS
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Scotland Under-21 manager Scot Gemmill is hopeful captain Oliver Burke, who is due to join up with the squad today, will be fit to face England on Friday night.

Burke, 20, has played just 35 minutes of football for West Bromwich Albion since arriving at the club in a £15 million switch from RB Leipzig in August after suffering a hamstring strain. His last appearance came as a substitute against Brighton a month ago.

However, the most expensive Scottish footballer in history is finally nearing full fitness as he steps up his rehabilitation with the Baggies.

Gemmill has his fingers crossed that the forward, magnificent in the 2-0 win over Holland last month, will be cleared to travel north today ahead of the mouth-watering Euro 2019 qualifier against the Auld Enemy.

Gemmill said: “Everything is on track and Oliver Burke is involved with his club. The communication has been great with West Brom and we are very grateful to them. They are working to make it happen.

“We’ll wait and see how Oliver is but we are hopeful that he will join up with the squad. That was always the plan. Touch wood, everything goes well and he will join up with us.

“He captained the team in the last game against Holland and he will be determined to join up with the squad for the England game. All the players are motivated. You could see that in our performance against Holland last month.”

Gemmill is adamant Scotland must hit the heights of their triumph over the Dutch all over again if they are to have a chance of stunning Aidy Boothroyd’s men at Middlesbrough’s Riverside, with England able to call upon the likes of Dominik Solanke of Liverpool, Everton’s Tom Davies and Leicester defender Ben Chilwell.

He added: “If you look at our game against Holland we did well because everyone did their jobs. They are all good players – but we came together as a team. It was a really strong team performance and it will need to be the same on Friday if we are to get what we want.”

Gemmill believes his side will come up against an England team good enough to cut it at full international level.

Boothroyd also has Premier League starlets like Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, Crystal Palace’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Leicester striker Demarai Gray at his disposal and Gemmill has 
little doubt about the quality of opposition facing his side.

“It’s a great fixture for both teams,” he said. “No matter the age group there is always a sense of occasion when the two teams meet.

“That will be the case on Friday so we’re looking forward to it. Are this England Under-21 side as strong as some full international sides? That’s a very valid point.

“One of their players [Tottenham’s Harry Winks] has just been called into the full squad so that supports that point. So the challenge to the young players here is to show they can get over this hurdle 
and prove they are [good] enough to go to the next level themselves.

“I don’t see it as a test for them, I see it as an opportunity. They should want to be playing the so-called top seeds.

“It’s almost like being fast-tracked if you can show you can play at this level.”

The Scots got their Group 4 campaign off to the perfect start with the win over Holland in Paisley but Gemmill admits there is little point him talking up his team’s chance of repeating that feat against the English if they do not replicate their Dutch display.

The Scots boss – whose team also face Latvia next Tuesday – said: “It’s easy to talk about beating a side like England but you need to find a way to get a result on the day.

“But last month’s result shows the levels the players are capable of reaching and of course that helps with 
confidence. But they are all good players, playing at a high level so there’s no problem with belief.”