FERUZ SET FOR SCOTLAND BOW
Boss Billy Stark has indicated Islam Feruz is set to make his Scotland Under-21 debut in Wednesday's friendly with Italy at Easter Road.
Aberdeen's Clark Robertson and Michael O'Halloran of Bolton have withdrawn due to injury, with Inverness defender Graeme Shinnie called up to a 21-man squad, with a third uncapped at under-21 level.
Among the seven yet to grace the under-21 international stage is forward Feruz, who last summer joined Chelsea from Celtic.
Feruz, who came to Glasgow from Somalia as an asylum seeker in 2001, this week appears set to become Scotland's youngest under-21 international if handed his debut aged 16 years and 197 days, beating a record held by Christian Dailly.
"He's a very young lad and he's been recognised as being very talented," Stark said.
"Although he's young, he's shown he's got something a wee bit different and I would like to think we'll see some of that on the pitch."
Hibernian defender Paul Hanlon, who has 18 under-21 caps, is set to captain the group, which features three of the four nominees for Scotland's Young Player of the Year - St Mirren's Kenny McLean and Dundee United duo Gary Mackay-Steven and Johnny Russell.
Stark has a team in mind for Wednesday's match as Scotland seek a notable scalp having taken four points from Holland in their European Championships qualifying campaign.
"I think you always have a wee idea about the core of the team," Stark said.
"The starting XI will be pretty experienced in terms of the under-21s - we can't take the Italians lightly - but we would hope to introduce one or two younger ones and certainly as the game goes on get a good healthy proportion of them on the pitch."
Italy's pedigree is well known and Stark's players are looking forward to pitting their wits against the Azzurri.
Hanlon is set to skipper his nation on his home ground, in a match which is a distraction from Hibs' battle to avoid Clydesdale Bank Premier League relegation and the build-up to the all-Edinburgh William Hill Scottish Cup final.
The 22-year-old said: "When I'm here I'm fully concentrating on playing for Scotland.
"We know it will be a tough game for us, we're just looking forward to comparing ourselves to the quality that they've got.
"It's a massive bonus for me playing at Easter Road. It will be a bit different having the Scotland jersey on and hopefully we get a good result."
As for the Young Player of the Year prize, Hanlon said: "I was speaking to Johnny Russell about it. I told him he got my vote."
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