Scotland Under-21 head coach Scot Gemmill has watched Stevie Mallan pull the trigger to great effect for Hibs this season and claims the midfielder’s confidence would repel a “shotgun”.
Gemmill is thrilled to see Mallan become a potent goal threat with nine goals – all coming from outside the box – for Neil Lennon’s side and says the next challenge for the 22-year-old is to fine-tune the rest of his game.
Mallan, who endured a frustrating time at Barnsley last season before being recruited by Hibs, was even likened to former Celtic favourite Lubo Moravcik by Lennon after notching a brace in Saturday’s 6-0 thrashing of Hamilton, which sees the Easter Road side breathing down Hearts’ necks at the top of the Premiership.
Gemmill will now look to harness Mallan’s club form when the young Scots take on Ukraine in Friday’s penultimate Group 4 Euro 2019 qualifying clash.
Gemmill said: “He’s shown, even going back to the Championship with St Mirren, it was obvious he could do it. And to be able to do it in the Premiership is tremendous, goalscoring is a huge asset to any team.
“But I’m sure Neil Lennon will be trying to improve him in all the other aspects of his game because he’s definitely got potential.
“The real challenge is to not just be good in one area. If you are going to play at the top, top level, you have to be nine out of ten in every aspect of your game.
“He’s not shy anyway. In terms of confidence, you couldn’t knock him down with a shotgun. He’s shown he can influence games and that’s the real test of any player. It’s not just goals, he’s creating chances and doing his job and influencing games.
“Everyone is excited to try and push him to the next level.”
Gemmill, whose side face England at Tynecastle next Tuesday and effectively need to win both games to have any hope of reaching the finals in Italy and San Marino, continued to show faith in Mallan when the player endured a challenging period in making only five league starts for the Tykes last term and has been impressed how he has revived his club career.
He added: “I think he’s shown maturity to handle that disappointment. Hopefully he’s using it as a motivation.
“I’d like to think we helped him with that. We carried on selecting him during that period.
“The fact he’s handled that, came back to Scotland with a great team under a good manager and is influencing games is another credit to him.”
Gemmill admits another Edinburgh-based player, Hearts winger Callumn Morrison, came close to earning a maiden under-21s call-up after impressing for the Premiership leaders.
The 19-year-old has made 13 club appearances this term and was recently handed a new three-year contract by Hearts manager Craig Levein.
Asked if he considered Morrison, Gemmill replied: “Definitely. He’s doing great and there’s a real intent to include him moving forwards. He can play again when the age group changes. I’m really looking forward to working with him and he easily could have been involved at this point.
“You can only take so many. I’d have to be truthful and say the fact he can play again relieves that pressure in terms of having to include him before he’s not eligible. He played for me at under-17s level so the fact he can play again is great for everyone.
“I bumped into him at Oriam recently and congratulated him on his new contract.”
Gemmill, meanwhile, acknowledges that his side face a stern test away to Ukraine. Scotland were beaten 2-0 last November at home to Friday’s opponents and were defeated 4-0 on their last trip to Kiev two years ago.
Gemmill added: “They beat us at home in November and they beat us convincingly.
“I watched the game again in the last couple of days and we were well beaten so there is no doubt about it that we have to perform.
“It’s a huge challenge but the one that we want for our best young players.”