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  • Writer's pictureGordon Sheach

2019/20 Golden Scarf Awards - Scotland Youth

After unveiling the nominees for Player of the Season from the SWNT, we’re now turning to Scotland’s youth sides.

Again, expert opinion was sought and Gav Miller & Owen James Brown from PureFitbaw were kind enough to provide their shortlist for the four best performing Scotland youth players this season.

The nominees are:

Billy Gilmour, 18 (Chelsea)

Where else to start, other than Billy the Kid? While there has been so much excitement around this young man, it’s amazing to remember he’s only 18 years old (turning 19 next month).

This season for Chelsea he played in two UEFA Youth League games for Chelsea, played 11 PL2 (under 23s) games, scoring twice and providing four assists.

What drew the most media & fan buzz of course was his senior first team minutes including 90 mins in a 4-0 league win over Everton and 90 in an FA Cup win over Liverpool. In his minutes in the English Premier League he completed 89% of his passes – playing in the number six role, playmaking at the base of Chelsea’s midfield. He completed 2.73 passes into the final third per 90 minutes so he wasn’t just shuffling it sideways but being confident and progressive with the ball.

He’s calm on the ball, technically great, already confident enough to tell teammates where to go to receive the ball and surprisingly tenacious in the tackle given his size. It’s clear why Frank Lampard has been so effusive in his praise.

Gilmour was also an important part of the Scotland u21 team. With Scotland he needs more and better movement ahead of him and from the fullbacks for his skillset to really be useful. The calls for him to be included in the senior squad for our, of course, postponed senior team play off v Israel show how highly rated he is.

Kai Kennedy, 18 (Rangers)

Another diminutive creative type! Kai turned 18 in late March and is at Rangers. While he often plays wide on the left for Rangers, where he can excel, and has done occasionally for Rangers colts, is as a free 8/10 in central midfield.

In the future, he could partner Karamoko Dembele in those two roles in a Scotland midfield ahead of Billy Gilmour at 6 in the smallest and most technical Scottish side ever, revolutionising our approach!

Anyway, Kai is technically gifted with lovely instep control, great vision and a knack for evading pressing and weighting his final balls very well. Played five 90 minutes for Rangers in the UEFA Youth League this season (we’d recommend you watch them all, 2 wins 2 draws and a loss to Atletico Madrid – who are crazy good at that level right now), and a ton of minutes as Rangers Colts progressed in the Challenge Cup including a game running performance from that 8/10 position in the final against the men of Inverness Caley Thistle.

As far as I know he is out of contract in the summer of 2021. He needs adult minutes to ensure his progression. Two assists for Scotland u19s in 2019 as he helped us go undefeated in the initial Euro u19 qualifiers. Has played for Scotland at u16, 17, 18 and 19 levels. Should be fast tracked into 21s.

Stephen Kelly, 20 (Ayr United, loan from Rangers)

It’s important to recognise someone playing lots of minutes in adult football and Kelly is possibly the standout Scottish teen in Scottish football this season. Many of the highest rated teens in the Premiership (Aaron Hickey, Jamie Hamilton, Andy Irving etc) have experienced tough seasons.

Kelly has stood out for Ayr United in what is an extremely competitive and tough league playing against adults with at times 10 years or more of experience and development than him. He turned 20 just after the season was halted and played in 27 games for Ayr United on loan from Rangers this season. He scored 5 times and set up 3 goals which is impressive, giving real impetus from midfield.

I only saw him in person once (away v Livingston in the League Cup when he more than held his own against Marvin Bartley – who has been fantastic this season) but the Pure Championship guys Cammy (Anderson) and Chris (Samson) are big fans. Played 70 mins of Scotland u21s most recent competitive game back in November 2019 and was a key figure for the u19s earlier in 2019.

Kieron Bowie, 17 (Raith Rovers)

Bowie doesn’t turn 18 until late September but has had a really impressive, transformative season. He is Kirkcaldy born and was excellent for Raith Rovers this season, helping them to promotion from League 1 and impressing so much he clinched a move to English Championship side Fulham.

He played a string of games early in the season while still aged 16 and went on to make 35 appearances across all competitions, scoring 3 times in 4 Challenge Cup games and hitting 5 goals and 3 assists in the league including a double featuring a load of link up play with 18 year old midfielder Dylan Tait in a 4-3 win over Montrose.

Bowie is a lanky but well-built forward with broad shoulders and huge wingspan. He loves to drop deep, receive in the half space, get turned and run at people. He’s direct but smart, can shoot from distance but also has a poacher’s knack of getting on the end of things in the box.

Has the physical and technical tools to be quite a complete forward if he develops as he could.

It will be interesting to see if he goes out on loan next season or if Fulham keep him in their youth team for refinement. He has certainly benefited from playing adult’s football and is a good example for young players at bigger clubs in Scotland of the benefit of minutes. In saying that, he may be looking forward to the coaching at the London club. Being born slightly between the age groups at national level may have counted against him recently (he is uncapped) but he should be selected for Scotland u19s from next season onwards.

And the Winner is...

Kirkcaldy got behind their boy (thanks to very kind shout-outs from the official Raith social accounts) and therefore Kieron Bowie wins the Golden Scarf Award for Scotland youth players!


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