Sheffield United’s Oli McBurnie talks to Scotland team-mates to explain ‘banter’ comments

Oli McBurnie of Sheffield Utd. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Oli McBurnie of Sheffield Utd. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
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Scotland have drawn a line under controversy over Oli McBurnie’s commitment to the cause after the striker addressed his team-mates ahead of their crucial Euro 2020 double header.

The Sheffield United striker clarified comments made to fellow Scot John Fleck and other Blades team-mates in the players’ tunnel which were leaked in video footage.

McBurnie allegedly claimed he hoped he would not be called up by his country but both his father and club boss Chris Wilder claimed the “banter” should not be taken seriously and stressed his commitment to representing Scotland.

The 23-year-old was kept off media duties as Scotland began preparations for their Hampden clashes against Russia and Belgium, but he spoke with manager Steve Clarke and clarified his position with his fellow players.

Scotland assistant coach Steven Reid said: “He spoke to the group before training, went out on the training pitch and wanted to speak to everyone and clarify the situation, which was cleared up pretty quickly.

“He is here, he is committed and he has spoken to the manager and the manager has made it clear that anyone that’s not committed to being involved in squads, then they are not going to be involved.

“Everyone that you see training, anyone that is going to be in this squad and every squad going forward, they have to be committed or he has made it pretty clear that they are not going to be involved, they are not going to be in the plans going forward.

“He (McBurnie) had a few words with the group and trained really brightly. It’s the first time I have worked with him personally, and it’s only been a day, but so far I have been really impressed with not only how he was on the training field but how he has been off the the training field as well.

“Hopefully we draw a line under that one now and move on and look forward to the two games, because it’s a big opportunity for Oli and a big opportunity for the lads that are going to be involved.”

The centre-forward role is up for grabs with both players who started in Steve Clarke’s first two games in June, Eamonn Brophy and Oliver Burke, not making the squad.

Central defence is another area of opportunity after Clarke lost Scott McKenna, John Souttar, Stuart Findlay and Grant Hanley to injury.

Aberdeen’s Michael Devlin and David Bates of Sheffield Wednesday were called up on Sunday despite playing only three games between them this season.

But Reid is sure both men can step up if required, with Charlie Mulgrew and Liam Cooper the other two centre-backs in the squad.

The former Republic of Ireland international said: “I look at it as a great opportunity, certainly for the two lads that have come in.

“Michael was involved in the summer so he knows us and the way we have been working. He trained really well in the summer camp and is a fantastic character, as is David.

“Often you find it’s an injury or a pull-out for a different reason and someone gets an opportunity and they need to take it.

“I went to the World Cup in 2002. I wasn’t in the original squad. There was an injury to Mark Kennedy and all of a sudden I got called up and I was the first substitution in the first game against Cameroon.

“So often an injury to one is an opportunity to another, they just have to be ready to take it.

“We still have really good quality coming in.”