McBurnie says step up to senior sides has helped Under-21s kick on
OLIVER McBURNIE believes it is clear to see how first-team football in Scotland is benefitting the nation’s Under-21 starlets.
The Swansea striker started up front for Scot Gemmill’s team in Tuesday night’s 0-0 Estonia friendly and was surrounded by players who are regular starters in their respective club senior teams.
St Mirren’s Lewis Morgan and Stephen Mallan were the two main highlights at the Paisley 2021 Stadium, while Kilmarnock’s Greg Taylor and Celtic’s Jamie McCart – who is on loan at Inverness – are reaping the rewards of playing in the cut-throat and harsh environment at the top level, to name but a few.
McBurnie has six first-team appearances this season for Swansea under his belt along with loan spells to the likes of Newport County, Chester and Bradford.
And the 20-year-old believes Gemmill’s Scotland team will feel the benefit of putting faith in a Scottishbased talent with competitive experience rather than elite academy players from big clubs south of the border.
“One hundred per cent it toughens you up,” he said. “I was a 17-year-old kid on loan at Chester and there were about 4000 fans screaming at you every week. It’s different to what you have ever been used to.
“You adapt to it quickly then you start to enjoy it. When you then go back to U23s and there is no crowd, you just want to get back out there.
“Everyone wants to play first-team football. Nobody wants to play youth football for their career.
“They are very good. I think you can see the difference when a lot of these boys play first-team every week compared to other boys down south who are playing 23s a lot of the time.
“The massive difference is these boys are used to playing in front of crowds. They are used to playing big physical men and a certain style of football which is maybe a bit different down south.
“It’s always nice to come up and see the boys. It’s a very good way of developing into a first-team player by playing as much first-team football as you can. That’s the ideal situation.”
McBurnie is a player you would think is the very type he is arguing against.
A virtual unknown a year ago to many in Scotland, followers of the national squads may only have come to recognise the 6ft 2in striker with a handful of small cameo appearances in the Swansea side.
However, he believes he offers much more.
“That pushed me,” talking of his previous temporary moves. “I’ve had three or four loans and I played about 20 games at Bradford.
“I’ve had my fair share of first-team football at all types of levels. This season I’ve played five first team games for Swansea as well.
“That experience and loans have helped turn me into the player I am today. People may think I’m just playing at the Swansea Under-23s but I’ve played about 50 games in my career.
“I’m not as inexperienced as people might think. For a lot of the boys it’s valuable to get the first-team experience like that.”
BIG STAGE: Oli McBurnie challenges Estonia’s Marten Kuusk in the U21 friendly on Tuesday night.