With a place at Euro 2024 all but secured, the mood around the Scotland national team is currently as bright as the unseasonal September sunshine.
Yet a stunning show reel from the southern Spanish city of Jaen on Monday evening suggested the future could be even more dazzling.
At just 17 years of age, Ben Doak was the undisputed star of the show at the Estadio de la Victoria as Scotland Under-21s lost narrowly 1-0 in a Euro qualifier.
In his first competitive start at the level, the Liverpool kid’s trickery, pace and inventiveness were hailed by head coach Scot Gemmill as ‘exceptional’.
For Doak, the performance was the merely the latest staging post on a thrilling footballing journey that looks like it could take him anywhere he wants to go.
Ben Doak was the undisputed star as the Scotland U21s narrowly lost 1-0 to Spain on Monday
He will have high hopes of making Steve Clarke’s squad for Euro 2024, should Scotland qualify
And, after being named in Liverpool’s Europa League squad for their upcoming group campaign, trips to face LASK Linz, Union Saint-Gilloise and Toulouse could play a major role in guiding Doak to another continental destination — the Euro 2024 finals in Germany with Steve Clarke’s Scotland.
Back in January 2022, a Celtic debut arrived aged 16 years, two months and 19 days, with his Old Firm bow arriving a month later.
After heading for Liverpool in a £600,000 deal, a goal seven minutes into his Scotland Under-21 debut off the bench against Northern Ireland last November made him the youngster-ever scorer at that level.
It broke a record held by Billy Gilmour, whose swift progress into the full national team Doak will now be hoping to emulate.
At Anfield, Doak impressed for the Under-18s and Under-21s before being handed a first-team debut last November; introduced for the final 16 minutes of a Carabao Cup win on penalties over Derby County, two days ahead of his 17th birthday.
Four further appearances for the first team off the bench ensued last season; two in the English Premier League and two in the FA Cup.
Jurgen Klopp has described Doak, who joined Liverpool from Celtic in 2022, as a ‘special boy’
The Liverpool teenager draws comparison to fellow Scotland starlet Billy Gilmour (pictured)
Doak also excelled in pre-season against Leicester City and Bayern Munich, and manager Jurgen Klopp is clearly a huge fan of his up-and-coming Scottish attacker.
‘Ben’s a special boy, really confident,’ said the German boss earlier this year. ‘He has something nobody else delivers really, this kind of dribbling, this kind of straight-forward bravery. All these kind of things.’
There are definitely distinct parallels between Doak and Gilmour, who also possessed a talent that quickly meant Scottish football was unable to keep him as he left Rangers for Chelsea in 2017.
At Stamford Bridge, however, Gilmour also provided an example of how tough it can be to become established in the upper reaches of the English Premier League, albeit he is now playing regularly for Brighton and Scotland.
Dalry native Doak has played just 13 minutes of football for Liverpool this season, coming off the bench in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. And while hailing his teenage talent on Monday night, Gemmill admitted Doak was not match fit due to limited minutes with his club side.
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Doak training hard alongside Liverpool star Mohamed Salah ahead of the international break
Yet the hope is the young Scot could be a beneficiary of Liverpool’s failure to secure Champions League football by finishing fifth last season. Instead of facing the continent’s elite forces, the Anfield side are in the Europa League in Group E alongside Austrian side LASK, Union Saint-Gilloise of Belgium and French outfit Toulouse.
They may not represent the most glamorous of opposition but given Klopp’s faith in Doak, the tournament represents the perfect stage for the teenager to shine.
Due to the nature of his generational talent, Doak stepping up to the full Scotland national team one day is an inevitability. But, after dazzling for Scotland Under-21s and catching the eye off the bench for Liverpool, the hope amongst the Tartan Army over the coming months is that this hugely exciting attacker, who turns 18 in November, can take the next step in his career.
By making his mark in Europe with Liverpool over the coming months, Doak can book his place in Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad for Euro 2024.
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