He may not be the first to shout about it, but Oliver Burke is proud of his part in skippering Scotland to the semi-finals of the prestigious Toulon tournament for the second year in succession.
The 21-year-old was handed the armband by Scot Gemmill and asked to be a difference maker.
So far he’s done exactly that – notching the winning goal against both France and South Korea.
The latter, in particular, was a spectacular effort that showcased his pace, power and willingness to take on the opposition.
Ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final with England, the West Brom man sat down to talk through his tournament so far.
Oli, you seem to save some of your best football for the Toulon tournament. You skippered Scotland to the semi-finals last year and have emulated that this time around. It’s obviously a competition you enjoy.
I think it’s great to be back at the Toulon tournament. I know a few of the boys have said this but it’s true. It’s a great opportunity for us to be out of our comfort zone and playing teams we aren’t used to facing in our normal Euros qualifiers. Togo, for example, were an entirely different type of team to South Korea. So it can only be good for our development to be going up against teams with varying styles. We knew we were in a difficult group but the boys have responded brilliant and we’ve stepped up. I think it’s a great achievement to finish top of the group, unbeaten, and manage to beat a team as good as France on their own soil. On top of that, it’s a good bunch of boys and we enjoy each other’s company. That always helps when you’re away as a group for so long.
You touched on the time the players spend away from home there – between the training camp at Oriam and the two weeks in France. It’s obviously good to get that tournament experience. How do you handle it?
I think everyone is different and handles themselves accordingly. In any dressing room you’ll have every type of person and I think that’s important. You need a mix, whether it’s the livelier boys or the ones that get their head down and go about their business quietly. Personally, I like to do my talking on the park for the most part. We’re in each other’s company a lot and it’s a good laugh but, ahead of training and games, we all have that focus. Everyone has their own approach or habits. I know I like to get in the zone, maybe stick on my headphones and listen to music. It helps me concentrate and go over what we’ve talked about in the team meetings, so I can visualise what’s ahead. That’s just me. There’s probably not one ‘right or wrong’ way to go about it.
You sometimes cut a frustrated figure on the park, even when it’s going well for you.
I think I’m just competitive and I demand a lot from myself. So I get frustrated if something hasn’t come off for me or if a game is going against it. I like to think I channel it in the right way and do my best for the team. You could see that against France. That was one when we all had to muck in and do our bit, because we knew France would have a lot of the ball. But we stuck to the game-plan Scot outlined and it worked.
Your goal was the difference against France and it was the same against South Korea. Do you feel a responsibility on the park?
It’s nothing to do with having the armband – though it’s obviously a tremendous honour to captain your country. In my own way I just try to lead by doing. My name is attached to the two goals but they’re for everyone in the team because over here everyone has played their part. Everyone has had minutes on the park and made a valuable contribution and that’s what has got us to the semi-final stage again. I’m proud of the boys and what we’ve managed to achieve.
You’ve packed a lot of different experiences in for someone who is still so young. How have you tried to navigate your way through it all?
I don’t think anything can really prepare you for some of the things you experience in football. There’s no manual for it. You just have to do the best you can to handle each situation. Hard work takes you a long way and I’ve had to work hard to get to where I am. I know I still have a lot to learn and I will make mistakes along the way. Everyone does. But I guarantee I will learn from them and be all the better for it. I feel privileged to have had the experiences I have had and I’m enthusiastic about what’s still to come, whether that’s at club level or with Scotland.
ICYMI | Scotland Under-21s recorded a fantastic 1-0 victory over France in the @TournoiToulon yesterday evening. Here's the goal from @OliverBurke55 that sealed the win. #SCO21s pic.twitter.com/vt0qQMef1c— Scotland (@ScottishFA) May 31, 2018
You didn’t hesitate to accept the call to head out to France. What does playing for Scotland mean to you?
It means everything. I’m always proud to pull on the shirt and I always will be, whether it’s been for the senior team or the Under-21s. Just as it would mean a lot for us to give a good account of ourselves against England and, hopefully, reach the final. That’s the only thing on my mind right now.
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