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Scot Gemmill believes Scotland Under-21s are ready to reach major tournament

England U21 v Scotland U21 – 2019 UEFA Euro U21 Qualifying – Group 4 – Riverside Stadium
(Image credit: Martin Rickett)

Scot Gemmill believes his Scotland Under-21 youngsters are ready to take the next step on a journey that could one day see them become household names.

While Steve Clarke’s senior squad face their date with destiny as they look to end the country’s 22-year wait to reach a major finals against Serbia in Belgrade on Thursday night, Gemmill’s young guns could also make history themselves this week.

They take on Croatia on Thursday afternoon and Greece next Tuesday and two victories will see the Scots qualify for the European Under-21 Championships for the first time since 1996.

Gemmill is a firm believer in the value of reaching major championships no matter the age level and points to the list of A-list names who cut their teeth in youth football.

And he believes his team are now ready to realise their own potential by booking a slot at next summer’s finals in Hungary and Slovenia.

“I do believe the players are ready to reach a major tournament,” he said. “I take confidence from the development that has taken place.

“They’ve been with us for a couple of years now at this age group, with some of them having come in a little bit younger.

“But you can see the change happening. During that time a lot of them have emerged for their club teams and start to rack up the games.

“Some of them have played over 100 league games now so there is a big development that does take place and we just add to that with the international experience.

“Is it important that Scotland qualifies for tournaments at all age groups? Of course it can have a huge value.

“We’ve had four age groups go to finals in recent years and not only does it give them that experience of best vs best but it extends the season and gives them more games.

“If you go to the top level then the household names that we watch every week in the Champions League then they do have a history of playing international youth football and or reaching finals.

“So there’s no doubt it does help their development.”

Victory over third-place Croatia will see the Scots overtake group leaders the Czech Republic, who play the Greeks in their final game on Friday.

Scotland then head to Athens early next week and while there remains a number of outcomes that could see Gemmill’s team qualify, the manager insists those worries can wait.

Gemmill – who has called up Celtic defender Stephen Welsh and Manchester City’s Lewis Fiorini after seeing Kyle Magennis, Aaron Hickey, Harrison Ashby and Kai Kennedy all withdraw – said: “We’re literally just concentrating on the next game.

“We’re very proud of the way we work and we think we’ve got a good way of preparing for each game.

“We will have an individual game plan and all the concentration is on trying to do that for Thursday.

“After that we will reassess what we have to do but right now all the concentration is on Thursday.”