Scotland Under-17 coach Brian McLaughlin insists he is proud of his players, despite an opening Elite Round loss to hosts Greece.
The Scots lost out 1-0 in a tight game but McLaughlin saw more than enough to give him hope ahead of tomorrow’s Saturday’s second group game against Norway – who opened with a 2-2 draw against Germany.
Brian, now the dust has settled on the defeat to Greece, what are your thoughts on the game?
It was a difficult challenge, as we expected, against a very physical team. I don’t want to make excuses, as it was the same for both teams, but the pitch was very poor for a game at this level and it impacted on the way we like to play. We’ve tried to develop these boys in a certain way and I’m pleased that they stuck to those principles. It’s just unfortunate that Greece scored on the counter-attack and made the game very difficult for the last 30 minutes. The game was continuously disrupted, but that in itself is a brilliant learning experience for the boys because they’re going to come up against tactics like that at various points in their careers. The main thing, for me, is that the boys kept their discipline and kept trying to play our game. In the end they were unlucky not to get the point that we feel they deserved, at least.
It would have been easy for the players to panic and play a more direct game. Was patience something you had preached beforehand?
I’m really proud of the way they stuck to the game-plan. I’ll mention the pitch again because it was a big factor. It wasn’t a surface for elite football. The boys stuck to their beliefs, kept going and were unlucky not to take something.
What’s been your message to them since?
After the game they were obviously really disappointed but I told them I’d allow that for two minutes. From there it’s not about feeling sorry for yourself. It’s about the recovery process and getting ready to go again. We’ll play the same way against Norway and they need to embrace what we’ve been doing for the last two years. I know they will because I’ve already seen it in training. They’re ready to go again. There’s resilience in the group.
This group of players has been very successful over the last couple of years. How will they cope with a rare setback?
They’ve not had to deal with that. In the last 18 months to two years, in all the mini tournaments we’ve been involved in, they haven’t lost the first game. We’ve always won. So it’s the first time they’ve experienced that and the heads dropped, albeit briefly. But we know and they know they’re technically good enough to get over it and go again.
What do you expect from Norway?
Norway are super organised and have very good technical players, especially in attack. They’ll be direct and take the pitch out of the equation by playing the ball through the air a lot, like Greece. So we’ll need to stand up and deal with that. Nathan Patterson’s suspended after picking up a booking. Two or three have slight knocks but we would never take a chance with a young player.
If all experience is beneficial, good and bad, in the long run, what will the players take from the Elite Round so far?
It’s been a real challenge for us all and you have to adapt. We’ve come to a place that has been difficult at times. The training pitches are 45 minutes away by bus, which is tough. We’ve had to deal with that. We’re not interested in excuses – we’re here to play. But they’ve seen that sometimes they just have to adapt to the surroundings and make the best of it – while staying true to the values we all believe in.
Scotland 0, Greece 1, Wednesday 21 March, kick-off 4pm (local time), Pampeloponnisiako, Patras
Scotland v Norway, Saturday 24 March, kick-off 12pm (local time), Pampeloponnisiako, Patras
Scotland v Germany, Tuesday 27 March, kick-off 3pm (local time), Papacharalambeio Ethniko Stadio Nafpaktou, Nafpaktos
Ryan Mullen (Celtic)
Archie Mair (Aberdeen)
Taylor Wilson (Hamilton) PS
Nathan Patterson (Rangers) PS
Chris Hamilton (Heart of Midlothian) PS
Kane O’Connor (Hibernian)
Jack Armer (Preston North End)
Lewis Gordon (Watford)
Harrison Ashby (West Ham)
Ethan Erhahon (St Mirren) PS
Billy Gilmour (Chelsea) PS
Terry Taylor (Wolverhampton Wanderers) PS
Ethan Ross (Aberdeen) PS
Harry Cochrane (Heart of Midlothian) PS
Marc Leonard (Heart of Midlothian) PS
Jamie Semple (Motherwell) PS
Adedapo Mebude (Rangers) PS
Aaron Pressley (Aston Villa)
Aidan Fitzpatrick (Partick Thistle)
Anthony McDonald (Hearts) PS
PS - denotes Performance School player