Eric Black claims it took him only minutes to deduce that the new-look Scotland squad includes several players who could play in the English Premier League.
The Southampton coach has joined up with interim manager Malky Mackay ahead of Thursday’s friendly against Holland at Pittodrie, as Scotland begin to prepare for Euro 2020 following their World Cup exit.
Mackay, the Scottish Football Association’s performance director, named eight uncapped players in his squad, and 14 players from his original 24-man squad ply their trade in Scotland, in a departure from departed boss Gordon Strachan’s perceived preference for English-based players.
Aberdeen pair Graeme Shinnie and Ryan Christie, Nottingham Forest striker Jason Cummings, Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack, Paul Hanlon of Hibernian, Celtic’s Callum McGregor, Millwall goalkeeper Jordan Archer and Leeds defender Liam Cooper are all looking to earn their first cap.
Black has spent well over a decade in English football and was immediately impressed by the standard of the squad as they trained at Oriam, near Edinburgh.
The former Motherwell manager said: “I have to plead a little bit of ignorance because it is so quick down in the Premier League, you are constantly looking at the opposition. I only see highlights and bits and pieces (of Scottish football).
“But I was really impressed in terms of the quality. I know it is a young squad but even the ones that have been here, the attitude was outstanding.
“I know it is only one session, it might be a big statement but there are certainly players there who can play in the Premier League, no question.
“They handled the ball well, I saw players who played with their head up and even in the tight areas we worked in – and I used the same sizes I use in the Premier League – the ball started to circulate within the first two or three minutes and the ball was kept moving.
“I think because we haven’t qualified we get caught in a negative cycle and I am probably party to that as well. But there are good players there. The levels are going up and Celtic are helping to raise the bar playing Champions League football.
“I was really encouraged by what I saw. Fantastic. I am really pleased to be up.”
With limited time and various new faces, Black admits the players will not be overloaded with too much information for the visit of the Dutch, who also failed to qualify for Russia.
“Malky and I spoke about that,” the former Aberdeen striker said. “We can only get two or three points across and drill those and back them up with footage. We can’t reinvent the wheel in two sessions, that’s not going to happen.
“The long-term programme is 2020 and we need to make sure we are prepared. We are not in a good enough position as a national team to waste any games, whether it be a friendly or whatever, we need to maximise everything.
“They (Holland) are a top team with top players all over. But when you see the energy at training and the quality of young players, it is a chance for young players. A nd Malky said to them: ‘Go and be the next one to get 50 caps. You are the best players available to Scotland at the moment so relish it’.”