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Gemmill eager to grasp the nettle with Scotland

A former international himself, Scot Gemmill is now Scotland Under-17s coach – here he talks about next month's finals in Malta, his famous father and grassroots football.

Scotland Under-17s coach Scot Gemmill looks on during qualifying
Scotland Under-17s coach Scot Gemmill looks on during qualifying ©UEFA.com

After a six-year absence, Scotland are back at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship for a second time and aiming to do better than 2008 when they failed to pick up a point or get on the scoresheet in Turkey.

Head coach and former Scotland midfielder Scot Gemmill acknowledges his side face a daunting challenge against the might of Germany, Portugal and Switzerland in Group B, but goes into the tournament insisting "anything is possible" having eased through the elite round with a 100% record.

UEFA.com: How much of an achievement was it to reach the finals, especially beating the likes of Belgium who have a fantastic reputation for developing young players?

Scot Gemmill: I have been lucky enough to have been involved with Billy Stark at U19 level in the past few years and Belgium have knocked us out twice. [Eden] Hazard's younger brother played against us, so you are right; they have a fantastic pedigree and track record in producing those players. It puts into context what a brilliant performance it was from our players to reach the finals.

UEFA.com: Can you sum up what is being done with grassroots football in Scotland and how that is helping the U17s?

Gemmill: There's a lot of hard work going on. Mark Wotte is the [Scottish Football Association] performance director and has put a philosophy in place, the performance schools are established and coaching is being done on a day-to-day basis at the clubs and at these schools. However, this particular age group hasn't had the benefit of that yet, so the clubs deserve a lot of the credit for developing this current squad.

UEFA.com: How much of a blow is it that forward Greg Kiltie has been ruled out of the finals through injury?

Gemmill: Greg played all the games in qualification and the elite round until he got injured, but unfortunately that's football. He handled his disappointment very well. I'm sure he will be bitterly disappointed and we know we've lost a starting player but football moves on; we need to deal with it and we will.

UEFA.com: Mark Wotte worked alongside you during the elite round games. How much did you learn from him and are you looking at these finals as a stepping stone to develop your own coaching career?

Gemmill: Working with Mark was one of the reasons I took the job because I knew that could make me a better coach. I am ambitious to do well on a personal level and I realise that I have been given a great opportunity to work with good players. I am determined to do everything I can to maximise the team's performance.

UEFA.com: It's a tough group against Germany, Portugal and Switzerland – what do you know about the opposition and what can Scotland realistically achieve at the finals?

Gemmill: We played Portugal in January 2013 and roughly 90% of their squad is the same. We also played Switzerland last year, so we do know them. While they are bigger footballing nations, at this level there's an element of 'you just don't know'. My mind-set is that anything's possible, which might go against the traditional Scottish mentality, but I am very optimistic with regard to what we can do.

UEFA.com: You follow in your father's footsteps by taking a Scottish side to a European Championship. Is that a source of pride?

Gemmill: To be honest, I wouldn't use the word pride. From the outside it must appear as if maybe there's some link, but I can assure you there isn't. It's pure coincidence that my coaching career is with the national team. At the time I must hold up my hand and say I was very blase about what he had achieved and being in a similar role now I should probably have given him more credit for what he achieved.