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Rising stars: Nine young talents set to shine in 2018

We pick out some of the next generation worth keeping an eye on over the coming years.

Prospects: Celtic's Mikey Johnston, Rangers' Ross McCrorie and Hearts' Harry Cochrane.
Prospects: Celtic's Mikey Johnston, Rangers' Ross McCrorie and Hearts' Harry Cochrane. SNS

Scotland's World Cup qualification quest ultimately ended in failure, bringing with it the culmination to the international careers of some of the squad's older statesmen.

A new generation will step in to fill the void, tasked with finally ending the nation's wait for a major tournament berth.

While some of the youngsters have already made their mark on first-team football, others are patiently biding their time waiting for their opportunity in the limelight.

Here we pick out some of the young talents worth keeping an eye out during both 2018 and the years to follow.

Mikey Johnston

Mikey Johnston evades a challenge in Celtic's 6-2 UEFA Youth League loss to Bayern Munich.
Mikey Johnston evades a challenge in Celtic's 6-2 UEFA Youth League loss to Bayern Munich. SNS

Fleet-footed winger Mikey Johnston made the graduation to the Celtic first team during 2017 and is expected to continue on his rapid ascension in the year to come.

The highly-rated youngster, who has been with the Hoops since the age of nine, made his debut for Brendan Rodgers' side in May against St Johnstone following a standout display in the 3-0 Youth Cup victory over Rangers.

Johnston put to pen to paper on a new three-year-deal in the hours that followed as Celtic sought to tie down his future amid interest from English Premier League suitors.

He has since kicked on, starring for the Scottish champions' youth side in their UEFA Youth League campaign.

The 18-year-old scored one and set up the other as the young Hoops lost 6-2 to Bayern Munich.

His performance prompted a standing ovation from supporters of the Bavarian giants and left youth coach Shaun Maloney lauding an "exceptional talent".

He's an exceptional talent. His performance against Bayern was one I've not seen a Scottish player produce at that level, ever.
Shaun Maloney

Blessed with a great turn of pace and clever dribbling skills, Johnston has remained in Rodgers' thoughts ever since and featured twice over the festive fixture period.

Competition for wide berths in Celtic's starting 11 is ferocious but Johnston's natural ability leaves him with every chance of making the grade in the years to come.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwjiFe_ANMI | youtube

Billy Gilmour

Billy Gilmour starred for Rangers' youth side before moving to Chelsea.
Billy Gilmour starred for Rangers' youth side before moving to Chelsea. SNS

Training with the Rangers first team at the age of 15, Billy Gilmour was earmarked for a bright future at the heart of the Light Blues midfield.

But a tug-of-war was to ensue for the prodigious talent's services following a series of stellar performances for Scotland's youth side in the 2016 Victory Shield.

English champions Chelsea eventually won the race for Gilmour's signature and the pint-sized playmaker headed south to join up with the Stamford Bridge club in the summer.

He faces no shortage of competition as part of a Blues academy side that has picked up four FA Youth Cups on the trot.

But the Scot has settled in quickly to life in the capital, scoring three in his first three appearances for the under 18s.

The toughest challenge lies ahead in finding a way to break through into Chelsea's star-studded first team squad, a leap which has proven too big for a number of young talents.

Gilmour, however, has plenty of time on his side to make that dream a reality.

Harry Cochrane

Harry Cochrane celebrates his opener in Hearts' 4-0 win over Celtic.
Harry Cochrane celebrates his opener in Hearts' 4-0 win over Celtic. SNS

He may only be 16 but Hearts teenage sensation Harry Cochrane already looks comfortable mixing it with the best the Scottish game has to offer.

Cochrane was the star turn as the Jam Tarts stunned Celtic at Tynecastle Park, scoring the opener as Craig Levein's side thrashed the champions 4-0 to end their 69-game unbeaten run.

The Glaswegian, released by Rangers at under-13 level, is one of nine teenagers promoted to Levein's first team squad this campaign but looks the standout talent so far.

He bites into challenges and looks comfortable taking the ball in tight areas before quickly moving it on, while in a midfield battle with Scott Brown he played with maturity beyond his years.

His manager says that, despite impressing, Cochrane's first team chances have probably come a bit early such is his lightweight stature and the youngster could return to the youth ranks to fine-tune his game once Hearts' injury woes clear up.

Contracted until 2020, Cochrane has plenty of time to set about establishing himself as a permanent fixture in first his clubs' and then his countries' starting line-ups.

Ross McCrorie

Ross McCrorie recently signed a new long-term deal at Rangers.
Ross McCrorie recently signed a new long-term deal at Rangers. SNS

Pedro Caixinha tipped Ross McCrorie to become a legend for club and country after handing the 19-year-old his Rangers debut in September.

While such lofty billing may prove tough for the young defender to fulfil, he has quickly set about establishing himself in the Light Blues starting 11 since his first outing against Partick Thistle.

Loan stints in the lower leagues have helped the teenager, born in Dailly, South Ayrshire, quickly develop the physicality and versatility required to thrive in the Scottish game.

McCrorie is going to be one of the best centre halves in history, not just for this club but for this country.
Pedro Caixinha

Impressive displays initially at centre-half have been followed up by a run of games at the base of Rangers' midfield diamond, where the 19-year-old's tenacity, pace and timing in the challenge have come to the fore.

McCrorie recently agreed a new long-term contract with the Ibrox club and looks set to become a key figure in Graeme Murty's plans, having previously worked closely with the former development coach as he progressed through the ranks.

As his career progresses a return to his natural position at centre-half looks likely.

Performing well out of position should do McCrorie's stock no harm in the meantime.

https://stv.tv/sport/football/1398128-caixinha-mccrorie-will-be-one-of-the-best-in-history/ | default

Dean Campbell

Dean Campbell made his Aberdeen debut in the 3-1 defeat to Celtic.
Dean Campbell made his Aberdeen debut in the 3-1 defeat to Celtic. SNS

Dean Campbell rose to prominence after becoming Aberdeen's youngest player when he made his debut against Celtic.

The 16-year-old's cameo appearance in the 3-1 defeat at Pittodrie also meant he was the first player from the SFA's performance schools project to experience competitive club football.

Campbell, from Bridge of Don, was rewarded by boss Derek McInnes after starring for the club's under 20s, whom he already captains.

Most comfortable playing from a deep-lying midfield role, the left-footed playmaker reads the game well and makes use of a wide range of passing to spark attacks.

He also possesses a dangerous shot from range and scored a stunner from all of 45 yards against Celtic's youth side this season.

Lewis Morgan

Lewis Morgan signed for Celtic at the start of the January transfer window.
Lewis Morgan signed for Celtic at the start of the January transfer window. SNS

A red-hot start to the campaign saw Lewis Morgan bag 13 goals in 26 games across all competitions for St Mirren and spring to Brendan Rodgers' attention.

The 21-year-old signed on the dotted line with Celtic at the start of the January transfer window before returning to the Buddies, where he will spend the rest of the season on loan.

Both footed and capable of playing anywhere across the front, Morgan has developed a ruthless streak in front of goal on top of his ability to glide past full-backs.

His current boss Jack Ross holds no concerns regarding Morgan's ability to make the grade when he joins up with the Scottish champions.

Charlie Gilmour

Arsenal midfielder Charlie Gilmour has pledged his future to Scotland.
Arsenal midfielder Charlie Gilmour has pledged his future to Scotland. SNS

Arsenal youngster Charlie Gilmour offered the Tartan Army a timely boost after pledging his future to Scotland, having also turned out for England at youth level.

Born in Brighton, Gilmour's father Ian played for Motherwell before moving south where he set up the Ian Gilmour Football Academy.

Not long after, Charlie was spotted by Arsenal scouts and joined the club aged six.

Since then the midfielder has progressed through the youth ranks and signed a scholarship with the Gunners in 2015.

He was called up to Arsene Wenger's first-team squad for the Gunners' 4-2 Europa League win over BATE Barisov.

Talented on the ball, the 18-year-old follows the Arsenal midfield blueprint which emphasises dribbling ability and confidence using both feet.

He has developed the physical side of his game of late too to become more assured in a deeper role.

Another string to Gilmour's bow comes in his set-piece capabilities which he showcased to bag a hat-trick of penalties as Arsenal under 18s beat Liverpool 4-1.

Lewis Ferguson

Lewis Ferguson hails from a famous Scottish football family.
Lewis Ferguson hails from a famous Scottish football family. SNS

Hamilton Accies youngster Lewis Ferguson looks set to become the next product on the conveyor belt of young talent at New Douglas Park.

James McCarthur, James McCarthy and most recently the likes of Greg Docherty have graduated to star for the Lanarkshire club and now Ferguson is on the brink of a breakthrough.

The 18-year-old hails from a famous Scottish football family - he is the son of Derek and nephew of Barry.

Like his elders, he thrives in centre midfield where a powerful physique helps the youngster go box-to-box effortlessly.

Aggressive in the challenge and in the air, Ferguson also times his runs well to become a goal threat from crosses.

He has forced his way into Scotland's under 19s side recently and will be hoping to impress Martin Canning over the coming months in a bid to convince the Accies boss he is ready for first-team football.

And finally... Scott McTominay

Scott McTominay has yet to decide where his international future lies.
Scott McTominay has yet to decide where his international future lies. PA

Scott McTominay has met the challenge of convincing Jose Mourinho he is ready to mix it with the global stars at Manchester United.

Now, the challenge lies with Scotland in convincing the English-born midfielder, who has a Scottish father, he would be better served playing in front of the Tartan Army.

A remarkable growth spurt over the last couple of years has taken McTominay from 5ft 6in to 6ft 4in, bringing about heightened improvements to his game as a result.

Formerly an attacking midfielder, the languid 21-year-old has been moved into a deeper midfield role after catching the eye of Mourinho in training.

He has enjoyed fleeting appearances for United this campaign, featuring in cup competition mainly, where his physical attributes and composure on the ball have helped McTominay draw plaudits.

For the time being his focus remains on impressing his Portuguese coach, but should Scotland persuade McTominay he would likely become a key performer for the national side.

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