STEVE CLARKE announced his Scotland squad for the upcoming double-header with Russia and San Marino on Tuesday morning and a few eyebrows were raised when Lawrence Shankland's name was included on the 25-man squad.

The Dundee United striker's form over the last two or three seasons, coupled with Scotland's glaring lack of a goalscorer up front, meant that Clarke had no choice but to include the 24-year-old.

These two fixtures - and the rest of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign - provide Clarke with the ideal opportunity to bed in new players ahead of the crucial play-offs next year. Shankland's inclusion is a no-brainer in this regard: if the former Aberdeen striker can carry even the vaguest semblance of his club form into the international set-up, then Clarke will have found the solution to our current goalscoring woes.


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Shankland, of course, is not the only currently uncapped player that some fans were tipping for an international debut. Chelsea midfielder Billy Gilmour's name was put forward as a possible choice for Clarke after the youngster took his first tentative steps into professional football over the last month or so.

The 18-year-old made his professional debut coming off the bench during Chelsea's 2-2 draw with Sheffield United at the end of August before being handed his first start by Frank Lampard as Chelsea battered Grimsby Town at the tail end of September.

And while Gilmour caught the eye against Grimsby - Lampard said that he 'ran the midfield' on his full debut - we must be wary of getting ahead of ourselves.

Let's be clear. Gilmour looks a tremendous talent and if he can continue to feature for Chelsea on a semi-regular basis over the coming months, then there is absolutely an argument to be made for promoting him to the senior side. But it is still far too soon to be seriously considering such a move at this point in time.

Gilmour has played a grand total of 104 minutes of professional football, 92 of which came against a team several rungs below Chelsea in terms of quality. Talk of throwing Gilmour in to the senior squad is ridiculously premature - he's barely kicked a ball at senior level.

I can understand where fans are coming from when they're calling for Gilmour's inclusion in the senior squad. I understand the benefits of introducing and integrating the 18-year-old into the Scotland squad as early as possible. But with a little more than 100 minutes of senior football under his belt, it is still far too early to be discussing whether or not the Chelseas youngster should be in Clarke's squad.


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Even if you disagree and feel Gilmour already has something to offer the national team, it is difficult to envisage the playmaker getting any minutes in a competitive game. Central midfield is one of our most well-stocked areas and Clarke is struggling to squeeze in the players he already has at his disposal. There are usually three spots up for grabs, with John McGinn, Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie, Kenny McLean, Scott McTominay, John Fleck and Ryan Jack contesting them.

One of these players would have to be bumped to make way for Gilmour and it's difficult to argue that there isn't a single midfielder who cannot justify their place in the squad. And even if one of these players was dropped from the squad in place of Gilmour, it is simply inconceivable that the former Rangers youth player would start.

Christie is in the form of his life, McGregor is arguably Scotland's most complete midfielder, McGinn's progression at Aston Villa is showing no signs of slowing down, Jack has been superb this season and McTominay is slowly becoming a crucial player for Manchester United. There isn't even the slightest chance that Gilmour would realistically start ahead of any of them.

For now, Gilmour's place is in the under-21s where he can actually play and get an opportunity to face players on the international stage. If Gilmour gets more than the odd cameo appearance here and there for his club side then an argument can be made for giving him a full call-up but until then, talk of a full international cap is ludicrously premature.

Let's not get carried away: he's played in two professional matches.