Hibs kid Ethan Laidlaw reflects on dream Scotland debut as he makes Under-18s vow

It has been a whirlwind few months for Ethan Laidlaw, from regular appearances in Hibs’ Under-18 side, to first-team involvement, and then his debut for Scotland Under-17s.

Ethan Laidlaw celebrates scoring against Wales on his debut for Scotland U17s
Ethan Laidlaw celebrates scoring against Wales on his debut for Scotland U17s

The forward first appeared on the radar of many Easter Road fans when he was a surprise inclusion on the bench for Hibs’ trip to face Rangers back in April. Fellow youngster Jacob Blaney also made the journey if not the matchday squad, but still benefited from the experience, taking part in the pre-match warm-up.

Laidlaw made the bench for two further first-team games; both Scottish Cup ties away to Stranraer and against Dundee United at Hampden.

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Since then he has continued to impress for Eddie May and Gareth Evans’ side, regularly featuring in the CAS Under-18 Elite Youth League and the SFA Youth Cup. His versatility has seen him deployed up front and on the flanks, as well as deeper central roles.

Ethan Laidlaw in action for Hibs Under-18s against Aberdeen

His performances earned him a call-up to the Scotland Under-17 squad as a replacement after not quite making the cut for Brian McLaughlin's initial group.

“My dad told me about the call-up,” Ethan told the Hibs website. “I wasn’t in the first squad, so I must’ve impressed them in the Aberdeen game.”

Laidlaw made the first goal and scored the third in a 4-1 victory over the Dons for the wee Hibees, who got the 2021/22 league season off to a flying start. Fellow youth internationalists Jacob MacIntyre and Rudi Molotnikov, who represent Scotland Under-16s, also featured in the game.

“I was so happy when I found out about being part of Scotland’s Under-17 squad. Not everyone gets to play for their country from a young age,” Laidlaw said..

Laidlaw scores his second against Wales

A late addition to the squad, Laidlaw didn’t know any of his new team-mates but gradually settled in over the course of the training camp.

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“I enjoyed the camp a lot. It was different; I didn’t know anyone in the squad, so I was having to get to know the boys,” he recalled.

“There was me and a few boys from down south that had their first time of being there. You get to know them as the week goes on and playing games obviously helps.”

Training with the national team was an eye-opening experience for the teenager, with sessions split into morning and afternoons to focus on different tactics.

“You’d have double sessions; one in the morning based on in-possession play and one in the afternoon about pressing and setups,” Laidlaw continued.

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"It was different but enjoyable at the same time. It’ll help me manage different situations in games, which is so valuable.”

The Preston Lodge High School student was an unused substitute in the first of two friendly encounters against Wales, a game that finished 1-1, but the Hibs kid was sanguine about his lack of involvement.

“It was frustrating not to play in the first game, but I understood as I wasn’t in the first squad. I knew there was another game on the Sunday, so I was focused on that one.

“I knew I had to prove a point, especially with the Euro qualifiers coming up, and show them I was good enough.”

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Named in the starting XI for the second match, Laidlaw dragged Scotland back into the match after a fast start by Wales saw them race into a 2-0 lead.

"I was annoyed that we were behind,” he admitted, as he recalled his first goal.

“Wales tried to play a ball out of the back into the middle of the park, which was intercepted by one of our centre midfielders. He played a through-ball to me, the defenders were split wide, so I ran through and saw the tiniest gap at the near post and curled the ball past the goalkeeper.

"I was really happy to score, but at the same time, I knew we were still losing.”

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Laidlaw added a second before the half-time break, rounding the ‘keeper and slotting in for his and Scotland's second – “That made it 2-2, so I threw in a wee knee slide" – and early in the second half, Laidlaw sealed his hat-trick to mark a dream debut at international level.

“I saw a gap and placed the ball in – that put us 3-2 up. It was a big moment. I was really happy,” he said.

Wales fought back to win the game 4-3 but despite a disappointing result, Laidlaw was delighted to have made such an impression in his first game in dark blue.

“When I look back it’s such a happy memory. A really proud moment for me. I will never forget my first goal for my country at any level,” he added.

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Laidlaw’s performance earned him a call-up to the squad for Scotland Under-17s’ Euro Qualifying Round matches against Northern Ireland, Albania, and Italy.

He was an unused sub against Northern Ireland as Scotland recorded a 3-2 victory but came off the bench in the 3-2 in against Albania, and started in the 3-0 defeat by Italy.

The two wins were enough to seal Scotland’s passage to the next stage of qualifying, with Laidlaw hopeful he can keep his place in the squad.

On the domestic front, Hibs’ Under-18 side are unbeaten in all competitions so far this season and while fellow attackers Josh O’Connor and Connor Young might be grabbing the headlines for their exploits in front of goal, Laidlaw has still contributed to the team's impressive run of form.

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“I’m focused on the Under-18s; we’ve got a lot of games coming up so hopefully I’ll keep scoring, playing well, impressing coaches and more chances might come,” he continued.

"I’ll keep my head down and keep working.”

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