Football - Stark impressed by Gauld progress

Billy Stark welcomed the news that Ryan Gauld has pledged his future to Dundee United as he handed the 17-year-old his first call-up to the Scotland Under-21 squad.

PA Sport
Football - Stark impressed by Gauld progress
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Ryan Gauld is rumoured to have been watched by Real Madrid

The young playmaker has been named in the 21-man group for the UEFA European Championship qualifier against Georgia at St Mirren Park on November 14 after a string of impressive displays for United.

The international call completes a positive week for the teenager, who signed a contract extension tying him to the Tannadice club until the summer of 2016.

The new deal ends any speculation over the immediate future of Gauld, who had reportedly been watched by Real Madrid, and Stark is pleased to see the player continue his development in the first team at United.

He said: "There are three or four of them who have signed new deals at United and I think that allows them to settle down and continue developing as they have been.

"Dundee United take a lot of credit for that - they have given them the opportunity.

"Jackie McNamara is not averse to putting young ones in if they are good enough and they've certainly proved they are good enough."

Gauld has made the step up to the under-21s having previously featured for the under-19s and Stark believes he has plenty to offer at a more senior level for the young Scots.

He said: "I've seen quite a bit of him. He's still a young lad but we have some younger ones in the squad.

"I saw Ryan most recently in the game at Tannadice against St Mirren and he was outstanding that day.

"He was in my thoughts for the last squad and he has just increased that with the performances he has had since then so I'm delighted to have him.

"First of all, he's a very talented footballer. Allied to that, he's inventive, creative and has a great appetite to affect the game. For one so young, that's a bit unusual.

"He has shown a lot of confidence by being given the chance in the first team at Dundee United and he's grasped that.

"It's not a case of accommodating a young player that does okay in games; he has actually almost dictated Dundee United's creative part of the game.

"He is doing really well for a young one at the moment."

The Scots are aiming to steer their campaign back on track after suffering defeat away to Georgia in their last outing, having previously picked up maximum points at home against Luxembourg and Slovakia.

Stark said: "We have always set out to qualify and, in the process, blood younger players if we can and we are doing that.

"In terms of qualification, it's a big game for us. In this competition, in every game you go into, there is not much margin for error.

"We did target doing better in our home games in terms of wins.

"The last time, we drew with Holland, Austria and Bulgaria. In general, they were pretty good performances - we just didn't have the edge to get the winning goal.

"In the two home games so far (in this campaign) we have had good performances and we've won the games so that augurs well.

"If we can win our home games and take something on the road, it puts us in with a chance."

St Mirren midfielder Kenny McLean returns to the squad, as does Partick midfielder Stuart Bannigan.

Wigan's Fraser Fyvie, who recently joined Yeovil on loan, is suspended for the match.

Full squad: Archer (Tottenham), Henly (Reading), Kettings (Blackpool); Findlay (Celtic), Jack (Aberdeen), Kerr (Motherwell), McGhee (Hearts), McHattie (Hearts), Robertson (Dundee United); Armstrong (Dundee United), Bannigan (Partick), Herron (Celtic), Macleod (Rangers), McGeouch (Celtic), McLean (St Mirren); Fraser (Bournemouth), Gauld (Dundee United), Handling (Hibernian), May (St Johnstone), McGregor (Celtic), Paterson (Hearts).

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