SOURCE: IMAGE BY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
After Scotland failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in Russia next summer, their attention is now firmly fixed on the upcoming major tournament, Euro 2020. Two decades have passed since Scotland last qualified for a major tournament, when they were knocked out of the group stages at the 1998 World Cup in France. Hungry for success, the Scots are pinning their hopes on the new batch of exciting youngsters coming through the ranks.
With promising talent on the horizon, it might well be a golden generation for Scottish football. Here are some of Scotland’s most exciting football prospects.
Tony Gallacher- Falkirk
One of Scotland’s brightest young stars is Tony Gallacher. Already targeted by the Catalan giants, Barcelona, Gallacher has featured on several occasions for Falkirk. The youngster made his first league appearance in December 2016, starting a Championship match against Dumbarton. This was followed this up with seven appearances in the first-team this term, along with six cup fixtures. While he’s still finding his feet, the 18-year-old is becoming a staple in The Bairns’ side.
Gallacher operates in the left-back position and tends to move forward at every opportunity. With a strong left-foot delivery, any defending teams will need to ensure his runs are tracked. The youngster has made seven appearances for Scotland’s Under-19s, delivering an assist for one goal, before picking up the ‘Man of the Match’ award in an International Challenge Match against Sweden.
It will be a struggle for Falkirk to hold onto one of Scotland’s best youth players, as reported interest from Barcelona has been matched by several Premier League sides, including Manchester United and Stoke City.
Ronan Hughes- Hamilton Accies
SOURCE: RONAN HUGHES VIA DAILY RECORD
It’s hard to believe, but one of Scotland’s rising stars may not feature for the national team when his time comes. Ronan Hughes, an 18-year-old Hamilton midfielder, qualifies for the Welsh national side through his father. Scouts from Welsh (Euro 2016 semi-finalists) have been seen monitoring his performances numerous times.
The central midfielder became the Accies’ youngest player when he faced Inverness Caley Thistle at only 17 years and five months of age in 2016. An exciting talent to watch, Hughes is comfortable on the ball and has a wide passing range.
The electric midfielder is also generating a lot of interest, with a string of Premier League clubs displaying their interest. Crystal Palace made a play for the youngster, however, the teen opted to stay put at with a guarantee of game time. Hughes made two brief appearances off the bench in the Scottish Premiership last term but is yet to feature this season so far. Tipped as one of the Scottish Premiership’s top young players alongside Rory Currie and Liam Burt, Hughes is one to watch.
Matthew Knox- Livingston
When Matthew Knox made his Livingstone debut on Boxing Day 2016, he became their youngest player ever, at just 16 years and four days. Now, at only 17-years old, the young striker isn’t short of experience when it comes to being alongside professional footballers. Knox has completed three training stints with Manchester United and admitted it was “surreal” to be sitting with the likes of Paul Pogba and Wayne Rooney in the canteen. After United academy chief, Nicky Butt, decided not to sign Knox as part of his under-23 squad, Livingstone was desperate not to lose him again.
Despite sitting on the bench for seven of the ten Championship games this season, Knox is yet to have featured for the Lions. Knox is itching to get onto the pitch, and is expected to make the bench in their next match against Brechin. Things are surely looking bright for the young striker, that even the bookmakers are favouring Knox to get some game time. That said, with Livingston favourites to win, it would be a wise move to place your bets early, although there’s still the option to bet in play on any game.
Jack Aitchison- Celtic
SOURCE: JACK AITCHISON DEBUT GOAL BY DAILY RECORD
Celtic undoubtedly have the hardest squad to break into in Scottish football, but Jack Aitchison is trying his hardest to ensure that he joins an elite group of academy products. The 17-year-old has already made three appearances for The Bhoys, netting one goal and assisting another in the process. While Aitchison hasn’t featured in the first-team this season, his contribution in the UEFA Youth League has been vital with one goal and three assists in just three matches.
With his 18th birthday still almost six months away, Aitchison is knocking on the door of the matchday squad; somewhere he got quite familiar during Celtic’s last title-winning campaign. He said that Kolo Toure has been the biggest influence on his push for a place in Brendan Rodgers’ first-team. The retired former Arsenal defender, who is now the technical director at the club, has given the youngster some advice on his attacking movement.
Will They Stay?
There’s plenty of exciting young football talent to watch in Scotland. With these youngsters poised to do great things, it’ll be difficult to stop the bigger teams knocking on their door. Will they be lured down south? Or can they stay and make their mark for Scottish football?