No-one was happier than Billy Gilmour when he opened the scoring in Scotland’s 2-1 win over South Korea, which clinched a Toulon tournament semi-final slot for the second year in succession.
But Glenn Middleton came a close second.
It was the Rangers winger whose darting run and cutback found the Chelsea playmaker, in a move that came straight from the training ground.
Middleton, who also caught the eye in a late appearance from the bench in the opening game against Togo, was glad to see practise pay off when it counted.
Glenn, how satisfying was that win over South Korea?
It meant the world to us. We knew what we had to do before the game. The coaches made it clear how they wanted us to approach the game and we were set up accordingly. Thankfully we were able to get the job done.
You were heavily involved in the opening goal, which saw Ross Doohan and Greg Taylor involved before your run and cross for Billy. It looked a well-rehearsed move.
That was really pleasing because it was something we’d worked really hard on in training. We knew South Korea pushed high up the park at full-back so it was something we were able to exploit on that occasion. I think the two early goals also settled the nerves we had. It takes everyone doing their bit for a move like that to come off and, personally, I’m pleased to have played my part with the cross because that’s an area of my game I’ve also been working hard on.
Billy claimed you’d predicted you would tee him up before the game. Is that true?
It is! I said to Billy that I would look to cut the back for him on the edge of the box if I got the chance, so he knew to check his run. Iain Wilson was pointing at us in the celebration so I think he’d heard us discussing it.
England are next up on Wednesday in the semi-final. What do you expect from them?
We know England will be strong and I’m used to playing against a few of their players from my time at Norwich. But I also think that we have it within us to give them something to think about with the players in our own squad. One thing I’ve enjoyed about the Toulon tournament is the exposure to playing teams with completely different styles. Togo were athletic and very competitive. France obviously had quality across the park and South Korea pressed hard. It can only be good for our development to be out of our comfort zone like this and we’ve responded well so far.
You came into Toulon on the back of an eventful second half of the season, with a move from your formative club, Norwich City, to your boyhood favourites, Rangers. It seemed to come out of the blue so how was the experience for you?
It did come as a surprise when Norwich told me I was free to go but I know how hard I’ve been working since then. It’s given me the drive to move forward in my career. When it happened I hit a brick wall. I’d never experienced anything like it before, but it’s given me a new lease of life to work in the gym even harder, and practise my shooting and the other aspects of my game. Looking back, I’m happy for it. To get that experience at such a young age, albeit a negative one, will help me in the future. I’ve learned that things aren’t always straightforward. I’m not going to reach the top by just turning up for training every day. Even when you’re doing well, you can still get a kick up the backside. It’s been a hectic, crazy six months but enjoyable at the same time. I couldn’t ask for much more than to play for the team I support. Hopefully I’ll get opportunities at Rangers if I keep showing what I’m capable of doing.
Your new club manager, Steven Gerrard, has been out at the Toulon tournament as part of his Pro Licence course. How much are you looking forward to working with him?
Everyone is excited about the new manager coming in. He wasn’t a bad player after all and if he takes part in training he’ll probably still be one of the best. Knowing what he was capable of in his playing career, it will be great if some of that rubs off on us. It’s now up to me to dictate how clear the pathway into the first team can be. It’s about how hard you work and, if I get a chance in training or games, it’s up to me to take it. It would be a dream come true to play for Rangers – as it is with Scotland.
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)
Group A: China, England, Mexico, Qatar
Group B: France, Scotland, South Korea, Togo
Group C: Canada, Japan, Portugal, Turkey
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