• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Big footsteps, bright futures Famous names to the fore in a promising array of talent in Scotland's under-16 squad, writes Martin Greig

FIVE and a half years after the Fort Knox-style gates at Murray Park first cranked open, the trickle of talent is showing signs of turning into an impressive flow.

Loading article content

A clutch of homegrown talents may now populate the first team - it includes Alan Hutton, Chris Burke, Steven Smith, Charlie Adam and Allan McGregor - but the real products of the state-of-the-art facility are to be found at a younger age level.

Scotland under-16s will take on England live on Sky Sports tonight with an eight-strong contingent of Murray Park pupils in ther ranks. In their last game against Wales, which Scotland won 2-0, every one of them made the starting line-up, an almost unprecedented development at national youth level. Surnames like Fleck, Durie and Adam also suggest they have the pedigree to go all the way.

Making judgment calls on prodigious 15-year-olds is, invariably, a precarious business but the volume and quality of this latest batch has youth coaches conversing in hushed tones about their potential.

Tommy Wilson, the youth coach who took Scotland under-19s to the final of the European Championships in the summer and is now heading up the Rangers system, will personally oversee the development of the precocious pack over the next few years.

The first one of the aforementioned trio, John Fleck, nephew of former Rangers striker Robert, has attracted the most attention. At just 15, he turns out regularly for the under-19s and runs the show from his left midfield berth.

A four-year professional contract is further evidence of the esteem in which he is held at Ibrox, while adidas have also signed him up. Fleck left school just last Friday and Knightswood Secondary's loss is Rangers and Scotland's gain.

"I've always been a Rangers fan and it's my ambition to play in the first team, " says Fleck. "There's a lot of good players coming through at Murray Park now. It's good for me [to have so many in the Scotland team] because I know how they play. It's good for Rangers as well because it shows that they have a good coaching set-up."

Fleck has always punched above his weight. He turned out for Rangers in the SFA Under-19 Cup recently against Morton and played a key role in the first three goals in a 9-0 win. He was also involved in Scotland under-16s' Victory Shield campaign last year aged 14 and relished the test against older players.

"It was a lot harder for me then because the players were a lot older. It's a bit easier this year. I've grown a couple of inches in the past year and put on a bit of weight. I've played with the Rangers 19s in the last three games so, hopefully, I can become a regular. It's harder and more physical, but I enjoy it more. I play left midfield but I prefer centre midfield because you can get on the ball more."

Ross Mathie, the Scotland under16 manager, has played a key role in Fleck's development. "He played for the under-16s last year and could have moved up to under-17 level but took the decision to stay at under16s this year.

"We have made him captain and everyone who has come to the games has been impressed by his talent. It was his cross that set up the first goal against Wales and it was his wonderfully weighted pass for the second as well."

Scott Durie was barely out of nappies when his father, Gordon, was in his pomp at Ibrox in the mid90s. The 15-year-old arrived at Rangers as a striker but has now been turned into a central defender. He is eager to make a name for himself at the Ibrox club.

Durie has started both games in the Victory Shield and believes the continuity from club level has been vital. "All the back four were from Rangers. Me and Danny Wilson at centre half, Steven Forbes at right back and Gregg Wylde at left back. It helps a lot."

Grant Adam is hoping to follow in big brother Charlie's footsteps into the Rangers first team. The 15year-old, a highly rated goalkeeper, travels to Murray Park three times a week from his home in Dundee and is hopeful of earning a professional contract soon. "Rangers have given me wee hints that I could go fulltime next year, " he says.

Big brother Charlie admitted recently that he burst into tears with pride when he saw his younger brother make his Scotland debut last month. "He's [Charlie] there and he's doing his own thing, " says the younger Adam. "He talks to me about the club all the time. I watch him regularly. He just tells me to make sure I'm enjoying my football and to stick in at school. He's proud of me and so are all the family."

Fleck, Durie and Adam and the others are the tip of an impressive iceberg. To that list, can be added Archie Campbell, a quicksilver striker who has scored in the previous two Scotland victories and is on a three-year professional contract, and midfielder Jamie Ness.

Scotland need a draw to lift the Victory Shield tonight and Mathie is quietly confident that his young charges will rise to the occasion at KitKat Crescent in York. "It looks like it's going to be a 6000 sell-out and none of these players will have played in front of that many people before.

"There's also the aspect of live TV, which they will need to cope with, and the added aspect of it being against England. But they are a good bunch and they mingle well together. England drew with Wales and we beat Wales, so we have a chance."

Victory Shield Scotland will lift the Victory Shield for the first time since 1998-99 if they win or draw against England in York tonight. They shared it with England six years.

RESULTS Scotland 3 Northern Ireland 0, England 1 Wales 1, Scotland 2 Wales 0, England 3 N Ireland 0, Wales 3 N Ireland 0

P W D L F A Pts Scotland 2 2 0 0 5 0 6 England 2 1 1 0 4 1 4 Wales 3 1 1 1 4 3 4 Northern Ireland 3 0 0 3 0 9 0

SCOTLAND SQUAD. Grant Adam (Rangers), Archie Campbell (Rangers), Alex Cooper (Ross County), Scott Durie (Rangers), Sean Fitzharris (Celtic), Stephen Forbes (Rangers), John Fleck (Rangers), David Love (Hearts), David McAuliffe (Motherwell), Robert McHugh (Motherwell), Ryan Martin (Motherwell), Jamie Ness (Rangers), Michael O'Halloran (Celtic), Gordon Smith (Livingston), Daniel Thomson (Hearts), Daniel Wilson (Rangers), James Wood (Manchester City), John Wood (Hearts), Gregg Wylde (Rangers)

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

PARCH1.2774