SCOTLAND Juniors hopes of successfully winning back the Umbro Quadrangular Trophy will be put on the line today when taking on Northern Ireland in their 2017/18 tournament opener (McKenna Park 2.30pm).

The importance of winning his new look side’s first game is not lost on seasoned team boss Keith Burgess and that appreciation could see him opt to go with his strongest possible line up even though Scotland’s toughest test is widely anticipated to come tomorrow evening when going up against the reigning trophy holders Republic of Ireland (2013 winners in Limerick) at New Tinto Park’s 4G Astro-grass playing surface.

Preparations have gone well with emphatic friendly match victories over Linlithgow Rose (5-1) and Renfrew (7-0) yet it’s still far from clear who will get the starting nod from Burgess today given he has no shortage of selection dilemmas in looking to use his 20-strong playing squad to its best effect.

Just trying to second guess the wily Budgie is no easy matter, however hard not to think the sheer physical presence of goalkeeper Andy Leishman should see the Auchinleck Talbot No.1 get the nod ahead of gloves rival Richie Barnard.

Andy Forbes and Mark Sideserf are fancied to fill the full-back berths with Nikky Docherty (Beith) kept in reserve for now while experienced Scottish team captain Craig Pettigrew's lack of game time at club level this season will not prevent him being a shoo in for one of the central defensive berths most probably alongside powerful Bonnyrigg Rose stopper Dean Hoskins.

Scotland’s midfield strengths appear to be from an attacking sense with Burgess having to choose between speedy pair Gary McCann and Phil Johnston for the wide right berth as Bryan Young’s outstanding displays in both friendly outings has the Pollok ace earmarked as a certain pick on Scotland’s left flank.

Having a quartet of really strong contenders for the vital engine room roles will have Budgie scratching his head but it would be no real surprise if Colin Spence is tasked with a “sitter” responsibility while the relatively unknown Lewis McKenzie (Dundonald Bluebell) may get the nod ahead of Paul Burns and Ross Brash.

And the Scotland manager’s selection headache doesn’t get any easier further forward where he could perm any two from his four strikers David McKenna, Keir Milliken, Graham Wilson and Bryan Boylan and be sure to have selected an in-form pairing.

The team are scheduled to meet up at a Glasgow hotel this morning and looking forward to the three games in four days format is Beith frontman Milliken who insisted he is taking nothing for granted when asked about the likelihood of him winning his first Scottish cap against Nothern Ireland.

Milky admitted: “Just being involved with the Scotland squad has been nothing short of terrific and a lot of that is down to the manager Keith, his assistant Stewart Williamson and the entire backroom team as they leave no stone unturned in making sure every single player feels part of the set-up.

“Their sheer enthusiasm makes for a great togetherness among the players who are all getting on like a house on fire as a result, however everyone realises the test of our new team spirit comes when we face Northern Ireland.

“Up to now Keith has tried out a lot of different combinations and the competition for places is such that none of us can regard ourselves as a first name down on the team sheet other than Petty who is our captain and the only outfield player to have been previously capped.

“He previously led a Scotland side that won the tournament and we are all now desperate to experience it for ourselves ”

Meanwhile, yet another Junior managerial vacancy has been created by Irvine Meadow dispensing with the services of Ross Wilson in the aftermath of last Saturday’s 4-3 defeat by Super First Division rivals Cambuslang Rangers.

The young gaffer, just 28 years of age, had recently predicted his demise even though he was not sacked officially until a meeting of Medda club officials on Monday night.

He blasted: “I did say to you it was coming and the writing has been on the wall ever since I reacted against a certain official coming across as Craig Levein and trying to influence how I manage the team.

“He was even texting me about players he wanted to get signed up when I was on holiday in Tenerife during the close season and I should have went with my gut feel then and walked away and left him to be installed as manager.

“That’s my mistake and I will hold my hand up to having made others but to be shown the door after just 13 games in charge and with the bedding-in process of a whole batch of new players still underway is a panic response.

“But if I’m being honest there was a crisis here every week and after a time that becomes tedious so I’m probably better to be away even though right now it doesn’t feel that way.”

The Ayrshire club have installed former player Jimmy Noble as manager on a temporary basis and one of his first tasks will be assessing the extent of the cruciate ligament injury suffered by striker Aaron Connolly last weekend.


Umbro Quadrangular Tournament: Republic of Ireland v Isle of Man (Somervell Park, 2.30pm), Scotland v Northern Ireland (McKenna Park, 2.30pm).


Umbro Quadrangular Tournament: Isle of Man v Northern Ireland (New Tinto Park, 7pm), Scotland v Republic of Ireland (New Western Park, 7pm).


Umbro Quadrangular Tournament: Republic of Ireland v Northern Ireland (McKenna Park, 2.30pm), Scotland v Isle of Man (Newlandsfield, 2.30pm).