Earlier this week I took a look back to see what had become of a group of players that I identified as some of Scotland’s most promising players under the age of 25 back in 2012. Today I’d like to do the same thing with those players I identified on (or below) the U21 level back in 2012. Updates in red.
Age: 20 Midfielder, Dundee United & Scotland U21 (9)
Now 23, things have gone well for Armstrong since 2012. He managed to earn 20 U21 caps before aging out of the U21 side and he left Dundee United at the end of last season to join Celtic where he pretty much walked into the starting line-up and stayed there. In 2012-2013 he was the football writer’s Young Player of the Year and in both 2013-2013 and 2014-2015 he was part of the Premiership’s “Best XI” side. Armstrong is a player sure to be on Gordon Strachan’s radar in the coming years- he was part of one senior camp this past summer.
Age: 17 Forward, Chelsea & Scotland U21 (1)
The diminutive Feruz, who turned just 20 in September, continues to work his way through the ranks at Chelsea. In 2014 he signed what was called a “long-term” contract with the club and has gone out on short term loans several times to gain first team experience. Internationally, he still has only 4 U21 caps, but he’s regularly been playing “up” at least an age group as a youth international so that is of little concern.
Age: 19 Midfielder, Wigan Athletic & Scotland U21 (1)
Fyvie, now 22, left Wigan (currently free-falling through English football) at the end of last season and has become a regular starter at Hibernian in the Scottish Championship. Hibernian are likely to be promoted back to the Premiership at the end of the current season and this will surely help him on the international front. He earned 8 U21 caps before aging out.
Age: 20 Midfielder, Aberdeen & Scotland U21 (10)
23 year old Jack is still at Aberdeen and still a regular in the first team. Since 2012 he has earned nine more U21 caps and was called into his first senior camp in 2013.
Age: 20 Midfielder, St. Mirren & Scotland U21 (4)
After six seasons at St. Mirren McLean joined Aberdeen this season and has been a fixture in their starting line-up as the hound Celtic at the top of the table. On the international front the now 23 year old earned another seven caps after 2012.
Age: 21 Midfielder, St. Johnstone & Scotland U21 (7)
Although injuries have kept the 24 year old off the field for long stretches this season, Pawlett is also a fixture in the Aberdeen line-up, something that has been the case for several seasons now. Though he has not yet been capped at the senior level he has been called up to the squad several times since 2012.
Age: 21 Defender, Inverness Cal. Thistle & Scotland U21 (2)
After almost 200 senior matches for Caley Shinnie returned to his native Aberdeen to join the Dons this season and he has been an integral part of their success. Internationally the 24 year old was called into two senior camps this year though he did not see any action.
Age: 18 Forward, Celtic & Scotland U21 (4)
Soon-to-be 22 year old Watt has proven to be his own worst enemy both on and off the field in the last three years. Before leaving Celtic in 2014 he was loaned to Lierse in Belgium where his insubordinate behavior got him demoted to the reserve side. After leaving Celtic/Lierse he joined Standard Liege on a five year contract but had moved on to Charlton Athletic within seven months. He is currently on loan at Cardiff City. The same fitness and attitude issues also got him dropped from Scotland’s U21 side.
Age: 17 Defender, Chelsea & Scotland U19 (7)
Now 21, Davey has yet to play for Chelsea, having been loaned out to Peterborough and Scunthorpe. Things have gone better internationally where he was capped seven times at the U19 level and was part of Scotland’s 2013 UEFA U19 squad.
Age: 18 Defender, Celtic & Scotland U19 (3)
Still only 21, Fraser left Celtic in January of 2015 to join…ROSS COUNTY! A few injuries have kept him from being a permanent part of the line-up at Victoria Park, but the club were impressed enough to sign him through the 2016-2017 season. He continues to be a regular part of the Scotland youth set-up, including the U21 side.
Age: 16 Midfielder, Real Madrid & Scotland U17 (3)
Here’s the question about Jack Harper: How do you score four times in six matches for REAL MADRID in European youth competition in 2014-2015 and then find yourself buried in the youth/reserve side of Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion only a year later? Harper is still only 19, but he seems to moving quickly in the wrong direction.
One player who wasn’t even on my radar three years ago was midfielder Ryan Gauld– who made is debut (three minutes long) in the final match of Dundee United’s 2011-2012 season. Gauld, who only turned 20 two days ago, played in 10 matches the following season and was a starter in 2013-2014. In fact, he played so well in his first full season that Sporting Clube de Portugal paid a transfer fee of £3m to bring him to Lisbon. Gauld has played only five times in all competitions for the senior side, but has established himself in the B team over the past two seasons, making 41 appearances. Gauld was also called up to the national team (but did not play) twice during EURO 2016 play.
So, a bit more here to be positive about than the group of players I talked about earlier in the week. Armstrong, McLean, Shinnie, Fraser, and Gauld all seem to be headed in the right direction and Feruz and Harper seem to be entering that, “will he, won’t he” phase of their careers- hopefully both will get ample opportunities to make it.