Scotland star relishing return of ex-Hibs striker Steven Fletcher
Oli McBurnie believes the return of former Hibs striker Steven Fletcher to the Scotland set-up can help him find his first international goal.
Although the two frontmen currently play in the English Championship, for Swansea City and Sheffield Wednesday respectively, their paths had never crossed until they met up with Alex McLeish’s squad to prepare for the UEFA Nations League double header against Albania and Israel.
But, revealed McBurnie, he knows plenty about the 31-year-old and a career which has taken him from Easter Road via Burnley, Wolverhampton, Sunderland and Marseills to Sheffield.
He said: “I met him for the first time the other day. Our paths had never crossed until then. When I played for Barnsley against Wednesday last season he wasn’t involved. I don’t know if he was injured or whatever and Swansea haven’t played them yet this season.
“But I watched him playing as I grew up. He’s played at the highest level, in the Premier League, in internationals and you can always learn from players like him. So I’ll be looking to do just that in training this week.”
Fletcher has scored nine goals in winning 31 caps although the last of those came a year ago as he replaced Kieran Tierney for the last ten minutes of Scotland’s final World Cup qualifying match away to Slovenia.
As such, he is only one of four players in McLeish’s squad to have scored at this level, a fact McBurnie, who has yet to find the net in six previous appearances, is desperate to correct.
And, having scored three goals in his last three matches for Swansea to take his season’s tally to seven, the 22-year-old insisted he isn’t short of confidence as he readies himself for Saturday’s match in Tirana and the visit of Israel to Hampden next Tuesday.
He said: “I’ve been in a good bit of form for Swansea and obviously the aim is to come to these internationals and try and carry that on as much as possible.
“I think it is coming. As a striker that next chance is always just around the corner. You just want to score goals. If I keep doing the right things it will come.
“You know you are not going to get five or six chances in every game so when that one chance comes you’ve got to be clinical. That’s one of the differences between the Championship and international football but, as a striker, your job is to score goals, that’s whether you get one chance per game or ten.”
McBurnie has come close to getting that elusive first goal having suffered a few near mises but he admitted to eventually do so in a dark blue jersey would be the pinnacle of his career so far.
He said: “It’s frustrating as a striker sometimes when it’s just not going in. I’ve had spells like that before. All of a sudden you get a couple and you are flying. I just keep positive and be ready for that opportunity when it comes.
“Scoring for your country is what you dream about when you are a kid growing up. Hopefully, it will be soon and I’ll tell you all how it feels.
“I’d swap all those deflections for the winner that puts us into the play offs. Obviously, the boys want to get through to the play offs and to get there by any means possible. Whether it’s me or anyone who scores, we’re a team and all we want to do is win.”
And McBurnie hopes doing so will help silence his Welsh team-mates, who haven’t been slow to rub in just how well Wales have been doing on the international stage in stark contrast to Scotland’s failure to reach the finals of a major tournament for more than two decades. He said: “They like to bring it up a lot so it can be tough to take sometimes. To be fair, there are quite a few Scots down there now so I have a bit more back-up. But, to be fair, you can’t take away from what they have done.
“You look at the players they have got and they are some of the highest quality. They’ve done really well and they have some good young boys coming through at Swansea who are just being introduced to the team.”
As envious as he might be, McBurnie insisted Welsh success should bring hope to Scotland, saying: “It shows that no matter the size of the country or the expectations people put on you, you can always exceed them.”