Tag Archives: youth

Top 3 Rising Talents In Scottish Football

alex-mcleish

Another World Cup qualification campaign ended unsuccessfully for Scotland last year and, in truth, it was unsurprising. Head coach Gordon Strachan often appeared aimless, clueless and only started to get his team playing anywhere near at the level required when it was too late.

It was an ageing squad, it must be said. Darren Fletcher, Scott Brown, Russell Martin, and James Morrison – all ever-presents when available – are on the wrong side of 30 now. The new man in charge, Alex McLeish, has a tough job on his hands but he’d be wise to put his trust in youth because (and only say it in a whisper) it looks like Scotland have a good generation making their way into first-team football now.

We’ve seen Kieran Tierney grow into one of the best left-backs in Europe, likewise his slightly older compatriot Andrew Robertson, now firmly established as Liverpool’s starter on the left-hand side.

Consider also Hearts’ 4-0 humbling of Celtic, the result which ended their incredible unbeaten run, made even more astounding given that 16-year-old Harry Cochrane started and bossed the midfield against the formidable Scott Brown.

The next campaign to qualify for Euro 2020 will likely come too soon for that young man, but there are plenty of others beginning to impress in Scottish football, and who should be catching the attention of McLeish. This article will look at 3 of the top examples.

3) Anthony Ralston (Celtic)

It’d be permissible to only know Celtic’s young right-back from his comical and unfortunate tussle with Neymar in the Champions League group stage, with his ‘iconic’ laughing in the Brazilian’s face and then less funnily PSG’s man refusing to shake his hand at the final whistle.

That game was certainly too much for Ralston. Brendan Rodgers has repeatedly spoken highly of him, even after that game, (Daily Record) and everything is in place for Ralston to replace the tiring Mikael Lustig as Celtic’s first choice right-back.

Ralston started the season well, even scoring his first goal for the club in a 5-0 League Cup victory over Kilmarnock, but a cruel knee injury has kept him out since September.

In his early showings, though, he appeared extremely solid defensively, and there can’t be many young players who have come through from the youth ranks with the physique of Ralston. He’s an imposing presence, well-built and powerful. His tackling, unsurprisingly, is excellent, so much so that a future at centre-back could even await him.

His technique going forward isn’t as strong as Kieran Tierney on the opposite side of the pitch, and he can appear hesitant in possession, but Rodgers has plenty of time to increase Ralston’s confidence in these matters.

If he does so, Scotland could have a great answer to their problematic right-back position which has plagued the national side for years.

2) Lewis Morgan (Celtic)

It’s been seen before, notably in the case of the miserable Scott Allan, a player from a smaller Scottish club leaving too early to join Celtic or Rangers (or even an English side), where they proceed to struggle to gain a place in the team before returning to the lower level.

After choosing the champions over his boyhood club Rangers, Allan never really had an opportunity to show his capabilities under Ronny Deila, and Rodgers just hasn’t fancied the midfielder, sending him on loan to Hibs.

Morgan completed his signing for the club in January. It’s important that he’s returned to St Mirren for the remainder of the season, for this will allow him to play regularly in the first team and be fit and ready to impress as best he can in Celtic’s pre-season in the summer.

He had impressed for the Paisley club over the past few seasons, a standout in the Scottish Championship. He’s still only 21, but hit double figures in the 2016/2017 campaign and has 13 already so far in this one.

Full of creativity, strength on the ball, and with a mighty shooting range, Morgan could be the type of player Scotland have been missing recently. His ability with both feet and versatility across the back line will enable him to have a good chance of making Rodgers’ first-team squad from next season.

1) Ross McCrorie (Rangers)

As his club were experiencing a turbulent start to this season, McCrorie’s performances gave Rangers fans something to be proud of. His introduction to the first team was one of the few things Pedro Caixinha achieved during his time in charge.

Although he was on the losing side in a 2-0 defeat, McCrorie’s performance in his first Old Firm derby was commended favourably by the media. Since December, he’s even played mostly outside his natural position of centre-back but, as a defensive midfielder, has looked assured and effective.

He’s provided the steady base which has allowed others the freedom to express themselves going forward.

Loan spells in the lower leagues with Ayr United and Dumbarton in previous seasons helped the player with his physique and mentality, and the switch to the Scottish Premiership has been swift and seamless.

McCrorie has also played at almost every youth level for Scotland. Caixinha tipped (Daily Record) the player to become a legend for both club and country last year, and McCrorie possesses the skills and confidence to do so.

Does Ryan Christie Have A Future At Celtic?

Ryan Christie

In the loan market, Celtic has found differing results. Nadir Ciftci struggled in the English lower leagues with Plymouth and is trying again back in Scotland with Motherwell; promising youngster Kundai Benyu can’t get a game for Oldham Athletic. The only true success story they’ve had this season is Ryan Christie, who has been mightily impressive on loan with rivals Aberdeen. This was not a new territory for the player, given he spent time on loan at the same club last season in a productive spell. He notched 6 goals in just 13 league games in the second half of the campaign. His form helped Aberdeen to a second-place finish in the Scottish Premiership and a Scottish Cup final against his, of course, Celtic.

Manager Derek McInnes was desperate to secure the return of the midfielder for this season and Brendan Rodgers – perhaps surprisingly – granted his wish, and Christie has continued in fine style for the Dons. His goals return may be down (just 3 in the league so far) but whenever he’s played, which is often, Christie has made Aberdeen tick in attack and has been their main creative outlet. In battles against Celtic, they’ve sorely missed his ability, lacking that spark to change a game in one team’s favour. Aberdeen’s other options in midfield – players like Kenny McClean and Gary Mackay-Steven – have their positives but don’t possess Christie’s talent for that killer pass, his incisive play through an opposition’s defence. With McClean also due to depart the club for Norwich City next season, it’s little wonder that McInnes has talked about the possibility of signing Christie permanently from Celtic (Daily Record).

Rodgers, however, stated in the media last week that Christie will definitely remain a Celtic player next season. (Thescottishsun) Christie turned 23 last month and is at the age where he needs to find the best club to settle down at and play his best football. His ability is unquestioned but the overload of midfielders at Celtic could be problematic. Tom Rogic, Callum McGregor, Charly Musonda, and Stuart Armstrong are all potential rivals for his favoured position, attacking midfield. It’s something that Rodgers does need to address, this imbalance in his squad, for the defence is far more in need of reinforcement. The only way one could see Christie being allowed to join Aberdeen, then, is if McInnes can afford a decent transfer fee to secure his services.

ryan-christie

This is unlikely, for Aberdeen will most likely be focusing their expenditure on their new stadium, and closer attention to his competitors in midfield can offer Christie hope. Stuart Armstrong has appeared disillusioned with life in Glasgow this season and has been a pale imitation of the player from last season. Charly Musonda is very raw and it remains to be seen if he has the physicality required for Scottish football. Callum McGregor has filled the position consistently this campaign and has had an admirable season, but many have noted the dearth of creativity when he does occupy that attacking midfield space; the Scottish international possesses a goal threat and keeps possession well, but he doesn’t have that unpredictability or creativity of someone like Christie or Rogic. The latter’s exquisite left foot shot to equalise against Rangers last weekend was evidence of this but the rangy Australian is alarmingly injury-prone.

Rogic is the player most similar to Christie at the club, but it may play into Christie’s favour that he is fitter, more physically capable and can thus offer Rodgers more consistency. They both have an excellent eye for a pass, are graceful in possession of the ball, but Christie should be able to play far more minutes on the pitch. Rodger’s insistence about his place in his squad for next season will fill Christie with confidence, and a full season of first-team football with Aberdeen will ready him for a tough pre-season this summer.