By Andrew Scott
Stephen O’Donnell was surprised and grateful for his first competitve Scotland start against Albania on Monday.
The 26-year-old Kilmarnock right-back initially came into the international scene as part of Alex McLeish’s summer squad for the games against Peru and Mexico, in which he made his debut against Peru before featuring against Mexico in the next match.
Although the young Scottish side lost both games, O’Donnell made a lasting impression which earned him another call up to the squad to play Belgium and Albania.
After coming on a substitute in the 4-0 defeat against Belgium, O’Donnell was awarded his first competitive cap against Albania on Monday night, where the Scots ran out victorious for the first time under McLeish in a 2-0 win.
“I didn’t really expect to be in this squad but I was over the moon to be in it,
“I was delighted to represent my country in the summer and that will remain the same. Every squad I am in I will be grateful.”
O’Donnell went on to reference the difference in quality of the summer squad compared to the squad selected to play in the double-header.
“Look at the boys who came back, top-quality players. There were six boys from Celtic in the squad when it was named, boys from down south including Andrew Robertson who was playing for Liverpool in the Champions League final.”
While many seemed to have been called up to the squad for the international experience, O’Donnell made the cut when the “top-quality players” were brought back into the frame.
“I didn’t really expect to come on against Belgium but I thoroughly enjoyed it, barring the result, which was frustrating.
“I was surprised but delighted that I managed to get a start (against Albania) which I didn’t expect and it was a good win for the country.”
The young right-back gained a lot of plaudits for his performance in the Albania game and silenced a few doubters in the process, after many questioned the starting line-up for the tie.
O’Donnell remains optimistic for the next set of Scotland fixtures, and is hopes to remain in the frame for the games away to Israel and Albania.
“There is a month before the next game. I will continue to work hard at club level and hopefully that will bring international recognition.”