Scotland’s Under-17s added Germany to a list of recent big-name scalps on Tuesday.
The win – which came courtesy of a Dapo Mebude goal – rounded off their Elite Round appearance in style, even if it ultimately ended in disappointment with the failure to qualify for this summer’s finals in England.
Hearts defender Chris Hamilton was a stand-out against the Germans and believes the bigger picture is a rosy one for a group who have caught the eye over the last couple of years under Brian McLaughlin.
Chris, in terms of qualification, the win over Germany might not have counted for much, but presumably you were pleased to leave the Elite Round on a high?
It was great to beat a team of Germany’s standing, especially so soon after we got the win against Spain. I think it shoes that we can be a match for anyone on our day and shouldn’t be intimidated by any opposition. We were disappointed by the previous two results that cost us a place in the finals. We didn’t feel like that did us justice so we wanted to at least do as much as we could to put that right. We could have let our heads drop but we didn’t. We deserved to go out and beat Germany.
You’re a squad that hasn’t been used to losing. What was going through your heads in the build-up to the final game?
I think frustration was the overriding emotion. But it’s been a great experience overall and we’ll take a lot from it. We wanted to go out on a high, then use what we’ve learned to improve us as players for club and, hopefully, country.
Germany were obviously favourites, given their pedigree at this level, but you’ve shown you can go toe to toe against the biggest nations. Where was the game won?
We knew that they would be especially strong in the first half, that they liked to start on the front foot and make use of their good players. So we knew that we had to get to half-time and then we could step it up and press them a bit higher up the park. With the front three we have, we knew we could hurt them. Every time we gave Dapo the ball he caused them problems. It worked.
What will you take away from the week?
In the three games we’ve played the way we’ve been taught to over the last two years. I’m pleased that we stuck with our style and trusted in it. We couldn’t afford to doubt what we’ve learned and let it all slip. Now we have to take that on and hopefully as many of us as possible will progress to the Under-19 setup.
You’ve been in and around the first team at Hearts this season. How do you look back on a strong season for you at club level?
I was lucky enough to play for the Hearts first team in a pre-season friendly against Livingston, then travel with them for the winter break in Valencia. I’m really happy to be involved regularly with the development team and obviously what the likes of Anthony McDonald and Harry Cochrane have done at first-team level has given the rest of us hope that we can do the same. Hearts have shown that if you’re good enough and work for it then you’ll get a chance. It’s given us a real boost knowing that the manager is willing to throw young players in. At the same time, I can’t get carried away. I need to focus on playing well for the development team.
Finally, Chris, you’ve adapted well to life as a professional player but how good a grounding did you get within the Scottish FA JD Performance School system?
It was really good for my development and you can see that throughout the Under-17 squad. I think more than half of the squad was made up of Performance School participants, which says a lot. Obviously that extra time we’ve had to work on our games has been beneficial. It’s about making the most of the opportunity you’ve been given. I also think it’s helped with team spirit, because a lot of the boys went to school together or are used to playing with and against each other in the Performance School festivals. But the team spirit is just as good with those who didn’t go through that system or have come from England.
European Under-17 Championship Elite Round
The finals will be held in England this summer, with those who finish top of their Elite Round group – in addition to the seven runners-up with the best records against the teams finishing first and third in their section – qualifying.
Scotland 0, Greece 1, Wednesday 21 March, kick-off 4pm (local time), Pampeloponnisiako, Patras
Scotland 1 Norway 2, Saturday 24 March, kick-off 12pm (local time), Pampeloponnisiako, Patras
Scotland 1, Germany 0, 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