McBurnie says step up to se­nior sides has helped Un­der-21s kick on

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FOOTBALL - SCOTT MULLEN

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.

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