Scot Gemmill relies on instinct as Scotland U21s face the unknown

Scot Gemmill has been unable to study footage of Scotland's opponents from Togo. Picture: SNS.
Scot Gemmill has been unable to study footage of Scotland's opponents from Togo. Picture: SNS.
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A year ago Scotland Under-21s defeated Brazil at the Toulon Tournament to make it through the group stages and although they lost to eventual champions England in the semi-finals, they redeemed themselves to win the third-place play-off against Czech Republic.

Twelve months on, coach Scot Gemmill heads to France with a younger, new-look squad. But, if some of the Scottish players are untried at this level, some of the opposition are simply unknown.

Drawn in a group with Togo, France and South Korea, Gemmill admits that the first fixture, this evening, has been a tricky one to prepare for, with no available footage of the Togo side to pore over.

“There is none and, believe me, I’ve tried,” said the Scotland coach, pictured. “Normally we would split the preparation into what we do and then really focus on the opposition, watching videos. But we haven’t got the opportunity to do that on this occasion so the focus has had to be on us.”

Without the required detail on Togo, Gemmill says he is relying on the instincts of his young side and their ability to adapt quickly. But having played for Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough, who shied away from detailed analysis of the opposition and simply pinned the team lines on the wall, he is used to going in blind.

“[At Forest] you only knew which position you were playing by which shirt number you were wearing!” he recalls. “But I certainly don’t perceive this to be an easy game. I see Togo – and obviously I am only guessing – as a strong team, very physical, who will compete for everything, and if it is a hot day that won’t be a problem for them.

“So, there is no doubt in my mind that we have a really difficult game coming but that is why we are going, to challenge our players.

“We will still prepare properly and regardless what Togo do we have to trust our own system. Defensively our team will be organised and we will quickly assess how Togo are playing and what shape they are playing, what they are trying to do and how they are trying to hurt us and we hope our players will be big enough to react to that.

“That is the test. They have to prove that they are good enough and clever enough to play at the top level against the top players and still defend our goal as if our lives depend on it, which is how it should be every time they play.”