While some players may understandably be counting the days until a well-earned summer holiday, Ross McCrorie has other ideas.
The versatile 20-year-old made his long-awaited return to the Rangers squad on Saturday, with a foot injury having kept him out of action since the 0-0 draw with Celtic back on December 30.
Scotland Under-21 regular McCrorie admits he has been motivated by the prospect of a William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final slot against the Hoops and he also has one eye on this summer’s Toulon tournament.
Ross, it’s good to see you back in action. It can’t have been an easy spell for you.
It’s been really frustrating, especially after a good run in the first team at Rangers, which is what I’d always worked towards. I felt like I’d been playing well when the injury flared up and disrupted my progress. I think I initially sustained it at the start of December and played through it, thinking it would settle down, but it didn’t really happen so I was told to rest up completely. As soon as I could I threw myself into the rehab process and thankfully I’m back up and running now.
How big a motivation as making it back in time for the Scottish Cup semi-final?
A massive one. I’ve always enjoyed playing in those games against Celtic – at any age level – and it’s one everyone at the club is really looking forward to. It will obviously be difficult but those are the occasions you want to be involved in. The supporters deserve to be getting back to finals and enjoying success so hopefully we can give them that.
You’ve benefited from loan spells with Ayr United and Dumbarton, but how much have you enjoyed your breakthrough season with the team you supported as a boy?
It’s been everything I hoped it would be. I’ll always tell people – and any young player who is in the situation I was – that I really benefited from going out on loan and playing in games that mattered against seasoned professionals. I’ll always be grateful to the people at Ayr and Dumbarton for helping me along and giving me that experience. The goal was always to play for Rangers and I feel very lucky to have been able to play in those 18 games. Hopefully there are a lot more to come. A lot of people have asked me about being thrown into the Old Firm game and not being fazed but I try not to get too up or down – whatever the result – because if I do that it will impact on my performance. It’s better to try and keep a clear head. It’s easier said than done sometimes but that’s how I’ve tried to approach things.
You’ve missed out on a few games with the Scotland Under-21s, so would an end of season trip to Toulon appeal?
Definitely. I was really disappointed to miss out with Scotland, particularly after we started off the qualifying campaign so well with the win over the Netherlands. I was involved in Toulon last year and it was a brilliant experience so I would be delighted to be selected again. I’m always proud to play for Scotland and it would also be good for me to get a few more games under my belt, if possible, after being out for so long.
What are your stand-out memories from last year’s competition?
We had a really great group of boys who really bonded. We had the odd injury to contend with but everyone stepped up to play their part and we did well to finish third. I think most of the boys are in contention to go again this year so I’d like to think we could pick up where we left off. Beating Brazil was the obvious highlight and I feel like I’m duty-bound to mention Greg Taylor’s goal.
Rangers are well represented across the various Scotland squads at the moment. Who should we be keeping an eye on?
I think the Scottish game is definitely moving in the right direction because there are good young players scattered all over the place. Rangers-wise, the Academy staff are doing a really good job so there are a few to pick from but, for me, Dapo Mebude is one to watch. He’s done well for the Scotland Under-17s, is very quick and has a few tricks. Dapo has a real chance if he keeps working hard.
Scotland have been drawn in Group B for this summer’s Toulon tournament.
Officially known as the 46th Festival International Espoirs – Maurice Revello Tournament, Scot Gemmill’s side will line up against hosts France, South Korea and Togo.
Gemmill will take charge of an Under-21 squad for the 12-team competition, which will provide some of the country’s best young talents with top-level international experience.
The Scots return to the south of France with fond memories of last year’s trip, having reached the semi-final stage.
Keep an eye on our official channels for more news ahead of the trip, while more information can be found on the tournament website.
Group A: China, England, Mexico, Qatar
Group B: France, Scotland, South Korea, Togo
Group C: Canada, Japan, Portugal, Turkey
Scotland v Togo, Sunday 27 May, kick-off 5.30pm (local time), Stade de Lattre, Aubagne
Scotland v France, Wednesday 30 May, kick-off 7.30pm (local time), Stade D’Honneur, Salon
Scotland v South Korea, Saturday 2 June, kick-off 3pm (local time), Stade Parsemain, Fos-Sur-Mer
*Schedule subject to change depending on broadcaster's preferences.