It was all going so well. Scotland were leading England in the semi-final of a…
As weeks go, it’s been a rather good one for Scottish football. Our women’s team made history by reaching the World Cup for the first time. Not to be overshadowed, our Under-19 side overcame Poland and our Under-21s capped off a memorable week with a 3-0 win over Andorra.
We’ve previously lavished praise upon Scott Gemmill’s side for their performances in the Toulon Tournament. However, they face an uphill climb to make the Euros in San Marino next year. That said, a good performance against Andorra at Tynecastle meant there’s still a slim chance of qualification.
There were numerous good performances all around with the likes of Billy Gilmour and Mikey Johnston proving they’re exciting prospects. However, the night belonged to Everton striker Fraser Hornby, who bagged a hat-trick and continues to grow in both confidence and stature.
I know what you’re thinking. Slow down, let’s not get carried away, the guy only scored a hat-trick against Andorra. OK, fair enough, but Hornby has been a consistent performer at this level for a while now. He put in a series of good performances for Scotland in the Toulon tournament against significantly better opposition. When playing the likes of France and England he showed that he is a handful for the best teams in the world at this level.
From start to finish he was a threat to Andorra at Tynecastle. You’d be mistaken if you believe he’s simply a physical target man who’s at his best when partaking in aerial duels. Sure, he can be dominating in the air and is difficult for defenders to play against, but that is only one part of what makes Hornby so effective.
He’s an intelligent player. At just 18, Hornby already shows great maturity in the positions he takes up and the runs that he makes. At any point when Scotland were on the front foot on Thursday evening, you could bet your mortgage that Hornby would be in close proximity and ready to pounce. Moreover, whenever Chris Cadden or Johnston were making marauding runs or cutting inside Hornby would always be an option to them.
Consequently, it’s hardly surprising that he often found himself on the end of goalscoring opportunities. Take away the three goals that he scored, Hornby could have had another few. His continuous hard work to get into the right positions was rewarded and if it hadn’t been for the goalkeeper he could have ended the night with more than a hat-trick.
Similarly, the 18-year-old led the line himself for Scotland and at no point did that task appear too daunting. Hornby again showed maturity in the way he was always looking to bring others into play when he got the ball and certainly looked like someone who’s suited to playing that lone striker role.
And of course, his physical attributes are one of the striker’s strengths. He’s such a threat and was always the target for Scotland’s set pieces. He showed with his hat-trick that he has the composure to score from the spot, get on the end of crosses with his head and also be a fox in the box. You feel there’s still much more to come from Hornby and that if he continues to develop at this rate he has the makings of a top player.
In order to improve, you’d hope he gets the opportunity to experience more first-team football this season. If that’s in the shape of a loan move away from Goodison Park then that would surely be beneifical to both Scotland and, of course, the player himself.
It’s still early days in this young striker’s career but when you look at his performances throughout 2018, it’s hard not to get excited about his future. The likes of John Souttar, Scott McKenna and Oli McBurnie have all taken the step up from Under-21s to the national team so there’s no reason Hornby can’t be one of the next batch. Furthermore, with Alex McLeish seemingly choosing youth over experience for his most recent squad there’s nothing to stop Hornby, or anyone else for that matter, breaking into the national team.