Progress Is The Name Of The Game
Jamie Murphy is convinced some of Billy Stark's Scotland Under-21 team will graduate to full international honours and the Motherwell striker is determined to push himself to be among them. Murphy made his final under-21 appearance earlier in the month as a 2-1 defeat by Iceland at Easter Road spelled the end of Scotland's hopes of qualifying for their first European finals since 1996. The 21-year-old almost added to the goal he scored in the first leg of the play-off, which Scotland also lost 2-1, but hit the inside of the post from an acute angle in the 15th minute. Like his team-mates and Stark, Murphy was "gutted" as Scotland missed out on a trip to Denmark next summer following a stunning double from £7million midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. Scotland were left to look back on the many highlights of a campaign which saw them top their group ahead of Belarus and Austria, perhaps the best of which came last night when Chris Maguire netted from the halfway line to level briefly. But Murphy was also keen to look forward to a day when he may be reunited with some of his team-mates in dark blue.
He said: "I remember Billy Stark said at the start that we'll get better and start playing with our teams. At the start nobody was playing with our first teams and now nearly everyone us. We've got to look at it that way and say it has been a success. I feel I have progressed miles. I have definitely, definitely grown as a player and we have as a team as well. It's unlucky that we need to be disbanded now but that's football. It's been a great bunch of boys and coaching staff. I have to say thanks to them because we wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for them. Different coaching styles, playing in different countries is fantastic. Now the only games you get to play abroad are with the A squad and the Europa League as well. You just have to keep working hard and you never know who is watching. It's the pinnacle of everyone's career, playing for your country. I would be no different. I just need to concentrate on playing for Motherwell and doing the best I can."
Murphy, Motherwell's record European goalscorer, is right to have ambitions of playing for Scotland after scoring five times during their campaign. Dundee United striker David Goodwillie and Liverpool defender Danny Wilson, who is eligible for the next under-21 campaign, are among other likely contenders. Murphy said: "We got this far to the play-offs, that's not happened for a long time. I'm sure there will be a few players who move on to the big squad. I'll be surprised if a few don't, there are a few great players in the team."
Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)
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