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  • Writer's pictureJames Scott

Scotland Players to Watch – 2020/21 – Part One

Following on from the “Transfer Crystal Ball” which was published last week, this article aims to look past the summer transfer window into next season. Some Scots were enjoying tremendous seasons before football was brought to a halt by Covid-19, with some receiving highly anticipated big breaks.

Others were not so fortunate however, having been hampered by injuries, struggling to get a head of steam and build momentum. A new season means a clean slate however, the chance to get a full preseason under your belt with new opportunities on the horizon to impress fans and management and prove critics wrong.

So, with that in mind we’re going to look at a few Scotland players who the Tartan Army should keep an eye on in the 2020/21 season.

Billy Gilmour

Oor Billy. What a season this young man has had. After grafting away through the highly competitive ranks of the Chelsea youth setup, Billy graduated and made his first team debut after impressing Frank Lampard and he hasn’t looked back since. He has made seven appearances in total this season and particularly impressed in Chelsea’s FA Cup win against Liverpool, and their league match with Everton on the following weekend, playing 90 minutes in both and receiving back to back man of the match awards for his performances.

With the Premier League season about to restart, Gilmour will be looking to continue getting the game time he was before the season was postponed, something which is incredibly valuable for a player of his age. With new rules coming into play, clubs are allowed to use up to five substitutes in a game. This is a change which will likely benefit Billy, having already gained Lampard’s trust. Even if he is on the bench it increases his chances of getting minutes in most games, even when the going gets tough as the race for Champions League places hots up as the final games run down.

When the season ends, Gilmour will have an entire preseason with the first team, having joined the first team permanently earlier this year. These few months will hopefully allow him to build up his strength and work on any of his weaknesses (not that his size has proved to be an issue in his previous performances). If he manages to keep his spot in the team on the fringes of the starting line-up while building up so match time, it will be a massive season for a player who has just turned 19yrs old this June. This could be his first proper season having broken through last year and it will not be just Scot’s and Chelsea supporters who will keeping track of the young stars progress.

In the build up to Scotland’s postponed playoff semi-final with Israel, there was much talk around whether Gilmour would make the cut and if Clarke would call upon the youngster. Scotland’s next matches will likely be in the UEFA Nations League or playing the rescheduled playoff matches depending on what comes first, and this is only if international football has resumed come the later months of 2020.

These are the reasons why next season will potentially be huge for Gilmour.

The prospect of his full international debut for Scotland should excite everyone associated with Scotland right down to those who work in the pie stands at Hampden Park on matchdays. It isn’t every day someone so young is able to break into the national setup. Notable players in the past who have broken into the men’s team before turning 20 are Andy Robertson, Darren Fletcher and Kieran Tierney, so it’s another good omen for the gifted midfielder can follow in their footsteps, and why next season can be an important year in his career.

Lawrence Shankland

With Dundee United’s promotion and return to the top flight sealed, should he choose to stay with the Arabs, Shankland will be presented with a new challenge. Having found the net with ease in both League 1 and the Championship and notching up an incredible goals per game record in his first season at Dundee United (24 goals in 26 league games), the tangerine side of Dundee will be hoping Shankland can continue such a streak into the topflight.

The 2019/20 season won’t just be memorable for Lawrence due to his domestic achievements, but also his accomplishments with Scotland. Despite being in the Championship Steve Clarke called upon his services to add to his attacking options and gave him a chance to prove himself in navy blue. He scored on his only start which was in a 6-0 win over minnows San Mario, a far easier experience in comparison to his first national appearance, as substitute in a 4-0 demolition in Moscow.

Questions around whether Shankland could cut it for the national team were voiced at the time, due the fact he plays his football in the Championship. John McGinn was the last player to be called up to the national team from the second tier during his time at Hibernian and was man of the match on his debut in a win against Denmark going toe to toe with Christian Eriksen.

Despite being a couple of years older than McGinn when he received his debut, similarities can be drawn between the two, with them both gaining promotion with their respective sides. McGinn’s transition to the topflight was a natural progression and it became a springboard to his current success after he continued his development and became a fundamental part of the Scotland setup as well as any team he found himself in. Due to this it is easy to see how next season could be massive for Shankland. In a similar position to the one McGinn was four years ago (regardless of him being a couple of years older than him at the time), if Shankland can find the same vein of form for United and find the net most weeks in the Premiership, he could not only be one of top strikers in the league but could also nail down a starting position as Steve Clarkes main man up front.

It would also hopefully lead him down the same pathway to success which John McGinn found himself, however it must be acknowledged that he would still have a long way to go before reaching the dizzying heights Super John McGinn finds himself at right now.

Kieron Bowie

A lesser known name on the list possibly, but young Bowie is still one to watch for sure. Yet to be capped at any level for Scotland, Bowie has smashed it in his breakthrough season at Raith Rovers. The Kirkcaldy born, self-proclaimed Rovers fan broke into the first team at Starks Park at only 16yrs old and became a key player for Raith. Now 17, he finishes the season as Raith’s top goal scorer in all competitions (10 goals and 6 assists in 35 appearances) and helped them to clinching the League One title along with a place in the Challenge Cup final.

His efforts didn’t go unnoticed, with scouts travelling from far and wide to monitor his progress. After negotiations between the clubs and player, Fulham were the team to tie him with a move which will go through in July. His rise has been quick and may have taken many by surprise but Kieron is undoubtably a talent and someone the Scotland faithful should take note of, and it would be completely deserved if he were to receive the call to join up with the u19’s.

‘Ziggy’ as he is referred to by Raith fans, has a keen eye for goal with a wicked left foot which is not only lethal in the box but also from range. You could be excused for thinking he was older due to his large frame and build, both of which he uses well in his game.

He has an excellent attitude, and this showed when he first rubbed shoulders with experienced opposition in League One, unafraid to get stuck in and give as good as he got. Such characteristics will stand Bowie in good stead, and he will hopefully help hit the ground running at Craven Cottage.

It could be a while before we see him in the first team, but the rate at which ‘Ziggy’ has developed so far is staggering and if he continues on this upward trajectory with the help of the excellent staff and facilities at Fulham, it would not be too outlandish to dream about where he could be in a season or two. Therefore Bowie is certainly one to watch next season, and for fans it would be definitely worth keeping track of his development at Fulham and progress within the Scotland setup.

David Turnbull

A fan favourite at Fir Park, Turnbull has been quite the success story at Motherwell. Bursting onto the scene in 2018, David was a key player for the Steelmen, helping them to an 8th place finish in their 2018/19 league campaign. That season he scored 15 goals and was voted Motherwell’s player of the year and SWFA Young Player of the Year (ending Kieran Tierney’s three year domination of that award), quite remarkable feats for a 19yr old competing in the Scottish top flight.

His performances did not go unnoticed, and in the following summer transfer window it was well documented clubs were trying to lure him away from Motherwell. Celtic and Norwich found themselves fighting over the youngster and eventually it was Celtic who agreed a fee (a club record for Motherwell) and offer Turnbull a deal he was happy with (probably wanting to avoid another situation like the one they found themselves in with John McGinn and Hibernian).

All seemed good to go and Turnbull was destined to be playing his football at Parkhead the following season with photos leaked of Turnbull sitting alongside new manager Neil Lennon wearing the green and white hoops.

However, trouble arose during his medical. An issue was flagged with his knee revealing he would need surgery before he could go back to playing. The deal fell through and Turnbull instead found himself in a hospital gown rather than green and white hoops.

After going under the knife, Turnbull had to endure a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation process (covered in depth in the excellent documentary produced by the club below).

It was February of this year before he finally returned to full training, with his highly anticipated return to action coming later that month as a late substitute in a defeat to St Mirren at Fir Park. He would only feature again once as a substitute in a draw at Tynecastle before Covid-19 led to Scottish football grinding to a halt.

Motherwell had a successful season in his absence, achieving a 3rd place finish and a potential European adventure next season. With a lack of matches since his injury, Motherwell fans will hope he remains at the club. Next term could therefore be a big one for Turnbull with him finally returning to Motherwell’s starting line-up and getting his development back on track and aiming to hit the heights of his 2018/19 season.

Capped up to the u21’s, if Turnbull manages to replicate previous performances in a Motherwell side at the top of the Scottish Premiership and in Europe, he may start to catch the eye of Steve Clarke.

There is plenty of competition for midfield places in his Scotland squads, so it may still be a while before Turnbull gets chance. It must be acknowledged however, with characteristics such as his energy and eye for goal these certainly outline him as a potential asset to Clarke and Scotland. If next year he can get fully back up to speed, this can provide a platform for him to go on and achieve these goals, and potentially get the move he was robbed of last summer.

Look out for Part 2 of this article, covering more Scotland players tipped for great things in the 2020/21 season. Who should be included? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below!

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