THERE are some people out there who don’t think Stephen O’Donnell is Scotland class. But then there were also some who thought this 27-year-old from Lanarkshire might not amount to much when he came through at his boys’ club side Wishaw Wycombe Wanderers at the age of 10, not to mention the youth coaches at Aberdeen and Celtic who dispensed with his services one after another during his teenage years.

Or the manager at Luton Town who decided he wasn’t worthy of game time or a new contract south of

the border.

The Kilmarnock full-back’s journey to become a Scotland regular under first Alex McLeish then his former club manager Steve Clarke has been a thing to behold and it has a fair distance to travel yet. As for the critics, they will just continue to spur him on as they do his fellow Scotland full-back Andy Robertson, another man who has known a knock-back or two in his time.

“Everyone has their own story, don’t they?” said O’Donnell. “I was never the best player at Wishaw Wycombe Wanderers when I was growing up and that is something that has gone through my entire career. Back then I was in a team with James Keatings along with a few other boys who went pro youth.

“I pushed on to Aberdeen where John Ward talked about the three ‘As’ and said I had them and it gave me a chance,” added the 27-year-old, who has a chance to book his place in a national semi-final when Kilmarnock take on Hibs today. “They were attitude, application and ambition. I wish he had thrown in ability – but he didn’t!

“He was right because it is these small things that can see you make the most out of your career,” added O’Donnell.

“I wasn’t rated at Aberdeen at 2016, that happens. In my team was Ryan Jack and Kenny McLean, while Fraser Fyvie and Ryan Fraser were a couple of years younger.

“I would say that was one of my bigger mistakes, moving to Aberdeen full-time at 16. My mum wanted me to stay on at school because I was a semi-intelligent person but my dad said it was a dream come true. Then there was two years at Celtic and I loved every minute, but again there wasn’t great news. Thankfully Jackie McNamara took that chance on me at Partick Thistle.

“It was always ‘don’t be the guy in the pub at 35 saying ‘oh I was better than him’,” adds O’Donnell.

“Maybe I will be able to say that when I am 35 and looking back. Hopefully I will have kicked on again by then. It would be great to get an opportunity in England to prove people wrong.

“You obviously want to succeed for yourself but you also want to prove people wrong. I see it with Andy Robertson right now and the criticism he received on Twitter, you are there to get shot at every level.

“It is about using that, not to get down, but to have the attitude that is needed. A couple of the results with Scotland weren’t what we were hoping for but hopefully we can prove our doubters wrong…show we are good enough to be here.

“Until the end of your career, you can’t really take time to think what you have done. Because there is always somebody behind you. There are plenty of right-backs who are more than good enough to be playing in my position. Hopefully I keep performing at club level and that will be good enough to keep playing at international level.

“Steve [Clarke] won’t panic, he has got his style and his philosophy. If anybody’s going to turn our fortunes around, bearing in mind it is a 20-year problem, it is him.”

n Stephen O’Donnell was speaking at the SFA Grassroots Football Awards supported by McDonald’s at Hampden Park which honour grassroots heroes all across the country. Find out more about all the winners at