Iain Wilson is the type of player coaches and team-mates love.
The Kilmarnock man just goes about his business with minimum fuss, on and off the pitch.
A quiet, unassuming character, he changes completely when he steps over that white line and his midfield firefighting alongside Motherwell’s Allan Campbell has been a key factor in the success of Scotland’s Under-21s this summer at the prestigious Toulon tournament.
Ahead of Saturday’s third and fourth-place play-off against Turkey, ‘Big Shug’ took the time to reflect on his Toulon experience.
Iain, you’re one of the surviving members of the Toulon tournament campaign last summer – when Scotland also reached the semi-final stage. How would you compare the two?
Looking back on them it’s been a similar sort of experience. We had a group of players who enjoyed the company of each other and we’re able to gel quickly. We managed to achieve a pretty notable win – Brazil last time and France this year – before going on to lose to England in the semi-finals. I think there have been a lot of positives to take. I’d agree with Scot Gemmill in that we gave a much better account of ourselves this time against England. Last year we didn’t manage to lay a glove on them and were a clear second-best, whereas I thought we were unlucky to lose this one given the chances we created in the first half and the great goal Mikey Johnston scored.
You’re a familiar face in a new-look squad. How impressed have you been with some of the younger players that have stepped up from the Under-17s and Under-19s?
I think the best thing I can say for all of them is that they haven’t looked out of place. Everyone managed to hit the ground running and, as I mentioned, everyone gets on really well. They’re obviously a talented bunch and it’s up to guys like me on the pitch to help them express themselves.
You’ve been handed a lot of responsibility in the middle of the park. How do you see your role in the team?
It’s been good and I’m grateful to Scot for giving me a chance. Hopefully I haven’t let him down. I like to work hard, get stuck in and give the attacking players the ball. I let them do the rest! It’s a job I enjoy. It maybe goes unnoticed sometimes that doesn’t bother me. It’s my job within the set-up and I’m proud to be here representing Scotland.
You’ve been rooming with Greg Taylor, who has been a model of consistency over the course of the four games for Scotland. But he’s a lively guy. You can’t get much peace and quiet in there?
My ears haven’t had a minute’s rest sharing with Greg. Seriously, I think it helps when you come away and know each other’s games. Greg’s taken over the armband – very enthusiastically – from Oli Burke when he’s come off but he deserves it. He’s a good guy and he’s been great over here – just picking up where he left off in last year’s Toulon tournament.
The goal now, obviously, is to end on a high against Turkey.
That’s the aim. We managed to beat Czech Republic in the third place play-off last year so I’d like to see us repeat that against Turkey.
How do you look back on the Toulon tournament in general?
Personally speaking I think it’s been great to go up against the kind of team that we wouldn’t be used to facing in the qualifiers for the Euros at the various age levels. Togo and South Korea are different to anything I’d faced before so that can only be good for our development. I know the rest of the boys have said the same. It’s an honour for Scotland to be here in a tournament like this.
Watch the Semi-Final live on Free Sports UK. Free Sports UK is available on Sky (422), Freeview (95), Freesat (252), BT/TalkTalk (95) & online via the TVPlayer.
Ross Doohan (Celtic)
Robby McCrorie (Rangers)
Daniel Harvie (Aberdeen)
Jason Kerr (St Johnstone)
Chris Hamilton (Heart of Midlothian)
Ryan Porteous (Hibernian)
Anthony Ralston (Celtic)
Greg Taylor (Kilmarnock)
Iain Wilson (Kilmarnock)
Liam Burt (Rangers)
Allan Campbell (Motherwell)
Billy Gilmour (Chelsea)
Fraser Hornby (Everton)
Glenn Middleton (Rangers)
Harvey St Clair (Chelsea)
Elliot Watt (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Oliver Burke (West Bromwich Albion)
Michael Johnston (Celtic)
Craig Wighton (Dundee)
Scott Wright (Aberdeen)
Scotland 1, Togo 1, Stade de Lattre, Aubagne
Scotland 1, France 0, Stade D’Honneur, Salon
Scotland 2, South Korea 1, Stade Parsemain, Fos-Sur-Mer
Scotland 1, England 3, Stade de Lattre, Aubagne