The Rangers rookie reveals his debt of gratitude to Scot Gemmill.
Ross, you are only 19 but it feels like you have been around the Scotland set-up for a long time.
I still remember how excited I was to get my first call-up for Scotland. It was for a tournament in Italy just before the Victory Shield campaign with the Under-16s in 2013. That tournament was something else. It was the first time any of us had ever played live on television, so it was the first time I remember being nervous before a game. That was a great experience in itself because you quickly shake that off and get on with playing the game rather than the occasion.
Your Scotland side was the first to have won the Victory Shield since 1998. What did it mean to you at the time?
Everything. To beat England, the great rivals, in the last game to seal it was something else. I played right-back on the night and we had a really strong squad. Most of the boys are still playing at a good level. Calvin Miller scored the winner that night in Kirkcaldy and he’s obviously had some game-time at Celtic in the last wee while. My brother, Robby, and Ross Doohan are both in the Under-21 squad with me now. I could list them all – Frank Ross, Kevin O’Hara, Innes Murray, Joshua Laws, Ali Coote, Ross Lyon, Josh Jefferies, Regan Hendry, Leon Jones, Ben Stirling, Mackenzie Heaney and Dan Higgins. Darren Fletcher sent the squad a congratulatory text message at the end of the game. It’s funny to think that Scot Gemmill was assistant to Scott Booth at the time – which shows you how long I’ve played under him.
Scot is obviously your coach at Under-21 level now but he has consistently talked you up over the years. How big an influence has he been on you?
A massive one. I’ve worked with Scot at every age level from Under-16 through to Under-21 and he’s always backed me. I wasn’t even a first pick for the Under-16s when he took over but I think I’ve been in every one of his squads since. He made me his captain at Under-17 and Under-19 level. He’s always believed in me and given me a lot of confidence. If I haven’t started in the odd game, people might think I’d be annoyed or feel left out but it’s never been like that.
You have won rave reviews in a defensive midfield role for Rangers recently in what has been your breakthrough season. For those used to seeing you at centre-back it came as a bit of a shock.
Scot Gemmill, again, is one who I owe a lot to for that. He was the one who really first gave me a go in midfield, playing in that deeper role. I’ve played at centre-back and right-back for him as well but he wasn’t afraid to try me in a different position. I feel like it’s working out well for me and I’ve carried that on with Rangers.
This season has seen you tick off a lot of personal goals. What are your ambitions in a dark blue shirt?
Robby and I were the first twins to play for Scotland at youth level and we’ve been involved in every age-group since, so it would be a dream come true to take that to the senior squad one day. It’s always an honour to play for your country and I still remember running about with the strip on when I was a kid. I think I even had Kenny Miller’s name on the back of my top. First things first, I still think we’re in a good position to try and qualify for the Euros with the Under-21s. Beyond that, we’ve all seen the boys who have managed to step up to the national team. I think it really helps that Malky Mackay’s involved because he knows all the players inside-out.
Finally, who is your tip to follow in your footsteps for club and country?
I have to say Robby. He’s been doing really well on loan at Berwick and just has to keep working hard. His time will come. Beyond that, Jamie Barjonas has been involved with Scotland squads before and has been in and around the Rangers team recently. Zak Rudden is another one who is getting better and better too.