Scotland Under-21s boss Scot Gemmill insists there has been a sea change in the mentality of young Scottish players during his five years as a coach and it’s starting to pay dividends across all age groups.
Scotland Under-21s will maintain their lead at the top of their Euro 2021 qualifying group if they defeat Greece on Friday at Tynecastle at the halfway point of their campaign.
Gemmill believes the mindset of young players has changed immeasureably since he was first appointed Under-17s coach by the SFA five years ago. His team now boast the likes of Billy Gilmour, who came on as a sub for Chelsea at the weekend, as well as the vast majority of the squad playing regular first team football for their clubs at a young age.
Scotland Under-17s and 19s both qualified last month for Elite Round sections which included a win for the 19s against Germany. And Gemmill, pictured, insists even the way young Scottish players conduct themselves has improved now from when he first worked at Hampden.
He said: “I know from my experience working with best young players in the country, that the mentality has improved. They have a belief when they go to play at all the younger age groups they are not intimidated by anyone.
“They take confidence from the preparation that all the national teams use, they are all aligned in how they prepare for games. I think the behaviour of the players, individually and collectively the preparation has improved. The players have taken confidence from the performances and they have progressed.
“I worked with a lot of the boys at Under-17s level and the nucleus of the squad have experience with international football. The players are willing to do the work to show they can be trusted. You have to trust them, but the pathway they are on is constantly testing them for them to handle the different levels of improvement.
“For example, the changes in Billy Gilmour’s life has been huge, in terms of signing for Chelsea and moving to London. It is a huge testament to him what he has achieved and other players as well. They might not be under the same scrutiny as Billy, but they have remained on the right track. They don’t get distracted by off-the-field things.
“Historically that hasn’t been the case with the best young players in Scotland. That is another key sign to the new generation of players have that maturity. They key thing that is still to be seen is from this moment forward, that is the same for all of them. We have all worked with and seen top players that don’t stand the test of time.”
But the Under-21s suffered a blow when four players– captain Ross McCrorie, Kyle Magennis, Tom McIntyre and Mikey Johnston – dropped out through injury. Dean Campbell from Aberdeen and Ewan Henderson from Ross County have been called up as replacements.