Stuart McCall knows his way around when it comes to Scotland and major tournaments – now he hopes the likes of Arsenal ace Kieran Tierney and Manchester United star Scott McTominay can take the mantle.
McCall featured at Euro 1990 and 1996 alongside the 1998 World Cup during a successful international career for Scotland. The nation kicks off its first major tournament since France 98 next week against Czech Republic in Euro 2020 competition, with manager Steve Clarke able to call upon stars from Arsenal to Manchester United.
That’s not including John McGinn of Aston Villa and Liverpool hero Andy Robertson, some of the current Scotland squad featuring players McCall worked with while part of Gordon Strachan’s national team coaching staff. The 56-year-old thinks four Premier League stars can be key in group matches against Czech Republic, England and Croatia.
McCall tells NTOF: “I think the good thing is looking at the squad, it’s quite young. We have four top class players – Andy Robertson at Liverpool, Kieran Tierney at Arsenal, John McGinn at Aston Villa and Scott McTominay at Manchester United – and they are all quite young. Then underneath that you have youngsters like David Turnbull.
“Billy Gilmour is training at the top with Chelsea, they have just won the Champions League. When he plays for them he stands out and then there’s Nathan Patterson at Rangers too. Maybe Ryan Gauld comes back into the frame also. But there are some good youngsters and Steve Clarke has the nucleus of a good squad.
“It hopefully means we aren’t waiting another 23 years or so for another major tournament. When I worked with Gordon Strachan, we were close to doing it a couple of times, but we just missed out. There was always one game we messed up in.”
It’s been a long wait for major tournament football and McCall senses better quality within the Scotland ranks now compared to when he was assistant national coach. The young players coming through like Chelsea’s Gilmour and Celtic’s Turnbull provide optimism it won’t be a flash in the pan return to the biggest stage either.
McCall is glad the pain of missing out on tournament after tournament is over: “We had a good squad under Strachan, with players playing in the Premier League, but I don’t think we had the quality we do now in certain areas. There are players who are really top drawer.
“Previous campaigns we have had some good players, but in McTominay, Tierney, Robertson and McGinn, they stand out in the Premier League. We watched the Scotland U21s and brought a few of them into the group – Andy Robertson started straight away and we promoted him to the first-team squad.
“We had an ageing squad and it was time for some youngsters to come through. We have that in Nathan Patterson, David Turnbull and Billy Gilmour in particular now. It was so depressing to hear in the run-up to every major tournament how long it was since Scotland had qualified for a major tournament. It was always ‘it’s got to be this time.’
“When I grew up, we were at tournaments every four years, and I played at tournaments in 1990, 1996 and 1998. But it’s good to be back and hopefully we make the most of it.”
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