Craig Brown column: Still grounds for optimism for Scotland despite early Euro 2020 exit

As the last man to lead Scotland to a World Cup finals – the 1998 tournament in France – I’d dearly love us to repeat our feat in qualifying for Euro 2020 by reaching the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 11:26 am
Scotland players mob Callum McGregor after his goal against Croatia (Pic by Paul Ellis/Getty Images)

With Scotland bowing out of Euro 2020 after ending the group campaign winless and having scored just one goal – Callum McGregor’s fine strike against Croatia – and conceded five, I think it is important to stress that despite these stats we still have some exciting talents at our disposal who can impress on a world stage.

Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney are undoubtedly our two best and will be a feature of the national team for many years, but I’d like to use my final weekly Euro 2020 column to identify three other key men I think can greatly enhance our hopes in the years ahead.

I’m really encouraged by what I saw of Billy Gilmour in the 0-0 draw against England at Wembley.

Gilmour has definitely emerged in the competition to be a Scotland player for the future.

When you saw him on the ball against England he looked very impressive because he doesn’t give it away, he keeps possession. That is very important at the top level.

Also he was prepared to try to get it back. He was closing down opponents, he was busy.

I’m not saying he was flying into tackles but he didn’t shirk it.

I’m looking at personalities too. There’s a humility about the boy, he is grounded and not big headed.

Having seen interviews with Gilmour’s family, I think he’ll be kept that way.

Another vital cog in the Scotland wheel for years to come will be Gilmour’s fellow midfielder John McGinn.

McGinn gave his usual excellent determination and energy during Euro 2020. He was rumbustious and what you see is what you get, you get massive commitment.

We needed a goal and if we were going to get one from midfield I personally would depend on him because McGinn has scored 10 goals for Scotland in 30-odd internationals and that is really good for a midfield player.

A third player I’d like to highlight is Ryan Fraser, who came off the bench a couple of times during Euro 2020.

He was very bright and very lively and he is a creator who can score a goal too as he’s done for Scotland.

I felt that the strikers have been criticised a bit and maybe rightly. Big Dykes wasn’t at his best and although the other striker Adams looked good at times, they failed because of their lack of real service.

Big high balls into the box are not going to worry international defenders, who can handle a big boy like Dykes.

I remember when I was managing Scotland and everybody said: ‘Get big Duncan Ferguson in your team’.

We played him against Estonia in the replayed game in Monte Carlo in 1997, which finished 0-0.

We thought Duncan would terrorise them. Duncan was a good player and their centre back was six inches smaller than him, but he outjumped Duncan a lot of the game!

So a big guy, when he’s tall like Dykes, it doesn’t guarantee that he's going to win the ball in the air.

But Ryan Fraser is capable of giving decent service on the deck. He played Dykes through in a recent international for a very good goal for Scotland.

Before Fraser left Aberdeen, he had the second highest number of assists in the SPL.

He is a brilliant creator of opportunities and – although he only had flashing appearances – he looked a lively wee guy when he came on during Euro 2020.