The 26 Scotland footballers who carry our hopes at this summer's European Championships
After six months of heightened anticipation among Scottish football fans, we finally know the 26 men who will carry the hopes of a nation at this summer’s coronavirus-delayed European Championships.
Steve Clarke’s disclosure of his Scotland squad members has been largely welcomed, with an exciting blend of experience and youth evident amid the proud realisation that this is actually a group piled high with talent.
Although Scotland’s successful progression through Group D – featuring England, Czech Republic and Croatia – looks about as rosy as Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of holding onto England striker Harry Kane this summer, we will have a go and see where it takes us.
Having not qualified for a major tournament since way back in 1998 at the World Cup in France, citizens of our great nation can hardly be blamed for simply basking in the glory of actually being there this time.
And, dare I say it, we do actually possess some world class talent to provide grounds for considerable optimism.
Skipper Andy Robertson of Liverpool, arguably the world’s best left back, is supplemented by Arsenal defender Kieran Tierney – arguably the world’s second best left back (!) plus utility man Scott McTominay of Manchester United and cultured Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn.
If those star English Premier League names alone aren’t enough to make you believe we can finish high enough in the group and qualify for the last 16, surely adding the impressive goalkeeping talents of Derby County’s David Marshall – a penalty shoot-out hero in pre-qualifying – plus the creativity and goal threat of Southampton duo Stuart Armstrong and Ché Adams and Celtic pair Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie can convince you?
And, if boss Clarke does want to throw a curve ball at any of our group opponents, he can always call on the youthful skills of 21-year-old Celtic midfielder David Turnbull – newly crowned PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year – and Chelsea midfield sensation Billy Gilmour, 19.
Some observers have mourned the fact that Ryan Gauld, Lawrence Shankland and Leigh Griffiths all miss out on the squad, but you can’t please everyone and the general consensus is that Clarke’s squad is the correct one.
The squad in full is – Goalkeepers: Craig Gordon (Heart of Midlothian), David Marshall (Derby County), Jon McLaughlin (Rangers); Defenders: Liam Cooper (Leeds United), Declan Gallagher (Motherwell), Grant Hanley (Norwich City), Jack Hendry (KV Oostende) *on loan from Celtic, Scott McKenna (Nottingham Forrest), Stephen O'Donnell (Motherwell), Nathan Patterson (Rangers), Andy Robertson (Liverpool), Greg Taylor (Celtic), Kieran Tierney (Arsenal); Midfielders: Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), Ryan Christie (Celtic), John Fleck (Sheffield United), Billy Gilmour (Chelsea), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), David Turnbull (Celtic); Forwards: Ché Adams (Southampton), Lyndon Dykes (Queen's Park Rangers), James Forrest (Celtic), Ryan Fraser (Newcastle United), Kevin Nisbet (Hibernian).
So the excitement is now well and truly building ahead of the first major senior men’s international football tournament for three years.
Given the hell we’ve all put up with throughout this coronavirus pandemic, this competition will undoubtedly be savoured all the more.
Add into the mix that two of Scotland’s group games will be played at Hampden Park in front of 12,000 fans, plus a mouthwatering trip to England to face the Auld Enemy at Wembley Stadium, and you have a dream scenario for a potentially fabulous sporting summer.
The tournament gets underway with the Group A clash between Italy and Turkey in Rome on Friday, June 11.
Scotland’s sectional fixtures are: Monday, June 14 v Czech Republic, Hampden Park, 3pm kick-off; Friday, June 18 v England, Wembley Stadium, 9pm kick-off; Tuesday, June 22 v Croatia, Hampden Park, 9pm kick-off.
If Scotland end up in one of the top two group slots after these three games (and why wouldn’t we!) then we would automatically progress to the last 16. There is also the safety net of the four best third placed sides in the six groups reaching the knockout phase.
Come on Scotland!