Alex Lynch provides a detailed scout report on the new face of Scottish football, Ryan Gauld.
It’s been a long time since Scotland and their supporters have had something to cheer about with regards to the national team, as failing to qualify for the upcoming European Championships just marked the latest failure for a country that hasn’t qualified since the 1996 European Championship. But new and upcoming players give hope to Scottish fans that maybe they’ll see the national team achieve glory again, and the face of that new Scottish generation is none other than Sporting Club de Portugal’s Ryan Gauld.
Who Is Ryan Gauld?
Ryan Gauld was born in Aberdeen, but grew up in the town of Laurencekirk, Scotland in the Aberdeenshire county. The town only holds just about 3,600 people, starting his youth career with local club Brechin City, Gauld attended coaching schools in Dundee, and was soon sent to the Dundee United academy, which has produced many of the best Scottish players in recent seasons.
After moving to Dundee at the age of 9, Gauld made his senior debut in the final game of the 2011-12 season, at the ripe age of 16, coming on as a substitute in the 87th minute of a 2-0 away win for Dundee United. At the start of the 2012-13 season, Gauld rarely got a chance in the first team, as he scored one goal in ten appearances in the league and that goal came in his first start of the season in April. But despite not being picked very often for Dundee, Gauld got his first cap for the Scotland under-19s, the barometer that was the first sign that Gauld was much more talented than any young Scottish player.
The 2013-14 season was really when Gauld emerged as a renowned top prospect, as he scored 8 goals and chalked up 11 assists for Dundee United in only 26 starts including 4 assists in one game! He had a great season by any young player’s standards. During the season, Gauld scored his first goal for the under 19’s, but he also made his first cap for the Scotland under-21 team. In July of 2014, Gauld was sold by Dundee United to Sporting CP, for a fee of 3 million pounds, a heavy investment for any teenage player. He chose Sporting CP over top tier English clubs, in order to make the step up to the first team quickly. To this point Gauld has only made 2 senior caps for Sporting CP, but recently featured in the Champions League squad for Sporting CP in August.
Style Of Play, Strengths and Weaknesses
Since Ryan Gauld is a small player, only 5 foot 6, and an attacking midfielder, he has been called a “baby Messi” by people in Scotland due to his height and playing style. Gauld is a great passer, as he registered 11 assists in his last season for Dundee, and 3 assists for Sporting CP B last season. There are some games where he just takes over the game with his passing, as he had 2 assists against Academico in the Segunda Liga, and he had 4 assists against Partick Thistle and 3 assists against Kilmarnock in the Scottish Cup. Those matches showed how Gauld’s remarkable passing ability led to multiple assists and complete control of the entire match.
The ability to pass and create goals is Gauld’s biggest strength as a player, and with his small size it’s a necessity but also incredibly hard to stop. A player with his ability to find teammates in attacking areas is rare in today’s game filled with deep lying playmakers and counter attacks with a focus on width.
Another strength that Gauld possesses is his balance and his agility on the pitch. In order for a small player like Gauld to find passing lanes and areas of space on the pitch, he must be able to keep his feet when he gets challenged since he won’t be able to out muscle or hold off his opponents. When you watch Gauld play, he often keeps his balance even when he gets tripped up, which allows him to get defenders out of position and ends up doing what he’s best at, setting up his teammates.
Gauld also possesses great technical ability and skill. He constantly executes backheel passes, quick flicks and lots of scoop balls and generally displays a lot of skill when he’s on the pitch. Gauld’s skill shows that he has unlimited potential and could be a top player as he can lay claim to something that can’t be taught. Despite all of Gauld’s good traits, he also has some clear weaknesses. Gauld isn’t a high volume goal scorer at this point in his career. Despite playing the central attacking midfield role, you would expect him to score more goals, or show more shooting ability. He had 8 goals to his name in Scotland, a decent total but he only 3 goals in the Segunda Liga last season, and most of his goals are easy finishes on breakaways or tap in goals that he helped create.
He hasn’t shown incredible shooting or finishing so far which is discouraging as that could lead to defenders letting him shoot and making it harder for him to find his teammates. Gauld has also had some injuries early in his career, as he has missed 8 games in the last two seasons despite not playing in very physical leagues, something that is discouraging for Sporting CP and Gauld. If Gauld is getting hurt playing in Scotland and Portugal, imagine what will happen in the Premier League or La Liga if he doesn’t gain muscle?
What Does the Future Hold?
This season Gauld has been in the squad for some Sporting games, and will look to get into the team full time come next summer as that is the hope for Scottish and Sporting CP fans. After that he’ll feature for the Scottish National Team, a day that all Scots and fans of Football around the world can’t wait for, as he will try to become a regular for Scotland, something he should be able to achieve fairly quickly. But in the meantime, Gauld represents the future of Scottish Football and the national team. And as Scotland continues to starve for national team success, the wait for Gauld grows more agonizing for all parties, because he might be Scotland’s finest young talent of this generation, or even ever.
Written by Alex Lynch
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