What next for Scotland U21s and Scot Gemmill after Euro 2021 disappointment

As Scotland’s senior team qualified for the country's first tournament since France ‘98 in the most painstaking but emotional way possible, the 21s couldn’t follow suit on Tuesday afternoon.

Scotland 21s suffered disappointment in Greece. Picture: SNS
Scotland 21s suffered disappointment in Greece. Picture: SNS

Scot Gemmill’s men missed out on the country's first trip to an Under-21 European Championship in 1996 with a whimper.

There was little emotion to be provoked from the 1-0 defeat in Greece other than frustration. At no point was it pulsating. At no point was your heart racing. At no point from the 27th minute when the home side went ahead was the come back on.

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There was a thought beforehand that maybe, just maybe, the 21s would rise to the occasion as Steve Clarke’s men did in Serbia.

The senior side didn't just stumble their way to qualification on the night but put in their best performance under the former Kilmarnock miracle worker.

As Gemmill and SFA performance director Malky Mackay – the cameraman often mistaking him as boss – looked on from the bench they would have witnessed a team lacking in inspiration but mastering the art of disjointedness, the goal conceded was the equivalent of a busy intersection where the traffic lights aren’t working.

There is a solid argument to be made that Gemmill did not best utilise the squad at his disposal throughout qualification and then again on the night.

What about Turnbull?

Ross McCrorie, a revelation in the Aberdeen midfield alongside Lewis Ferguson, was fielded at right-back with Rangers’ highly-rated Nathan Patterson consigned to the bench.

As for Ferguson he was fielded in a deep-lying role at the base of midfield. It is a role he can play but when you consider his qualities and where Derek McInnes plays him, it is his least effective position in the midfield. He’s at his best confronting and engaging with play rather than building it.

The biggest head scratcher was David Turnbull. A bona fide playmaking talent, capable of scoring and creating – third highest for key passes per 90 and highest for through balls per 90 in the Premiership this season.

He was left on the bench until after the 70th minute. As baffling as Premier Sports’ coverage on their ‘player’ for tablets and phones.

There are areas of the squad where the country doesn’t have great depth, but to finish third in the group is hugely disappointing and underwhelming.

But perhaps what is more infuriating for a young squad developing, they never seem to have a style or identity instilled, unless that identity is ‘failing to make the most of genuine creative midfield talents’.

What next?

A new cycle will now start once qualification for the 2023 tournament begins. A host of the current squad, including goalkeepers Ross Doohan and Robby McCrorie, captain Ross McCroie, centre-back George Johnston and powerhouse midfielder Allan Campbell, will be too old allowing for the next generation of hopefuls to push through.

The question now will surround the role of Scot Gemmill. Does he continue in his post? He took over the team at a low ebb as they struggled in qualification for Euro 2017. They finished fifth in the group. That was followed by fourth in qualifying for Euro 2019 and now third.

That can be seen as progress but for those watching this squad during this group, perhaps there hasn’t been quite enough.

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