Scotland boss Steve Clarke admitted Aberdeen’s breakthrough star Lewis Ferguson was almost in his squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Cyprus and Belgium.
Ferguson, 19, who joined the Dons from Hamilton Accies last summer became a key figure at Pittodrie over the course of the season.
The midfielder played beyond his years, driving Derek McInnes’ side forward from the centre of the park and eventually making 44 appearances.
The son of former Rangers player Derek, Ferguson was nominated for both the PFA Scotland and Scottish Football Writers’ Association Young Player of the Year awards.
He also picked up Aberdeen’s in-house young player prize.
Clarke, who praised Ferguson and fellow young star David Turnbull, of Motherwell, said: “I spoke to Derek McInnes on Monday and Lewis came up in the conversation.
“He’s a good one and he’s certainly one for the future, but you have to be careful with young ones. David Turnbull at Motherwell’s another one who’s had a fantastic season.
“You don’t want to push them too far too early.
“We’re not too bad if you look at the midfield players we’ve got and, if you add one or two who are missing from selection this time, we’ll be pretty strong in that area of the pitch.
“Whereas in other areas of the pitch we have to get a bit stronger.”
Ferguson has made three appearances for the Scotland Under-21s, with his most recent Dark Blues appearance coming for the U20s in a 2-0 loss to Turkey in November.
He was kept out of Clarke’s selection by a strong contingent of midfielders, most of whom ply their trade down south, including Southampton’s former Dyce Boys Club playmaker Stuart Armstrong, Fulham’s Tom Cairney, John McGinn (Aston Villa), Kenny McLean (Norwich City) and Scott McTominay (Manchester United), as well as his departing Reds’ captain Graeme Shinnie – who will play for Derby County in the English Championship next term – and Celtic’s Callum McGregor.
Clarke has named four goalkeepers, including a recall for David Marshall, now of Hull City. He’s joined by Scott Bain (Celtic), Livingston’s Liam Kelly and Jon McLaughlin of Sunderland.
Aberdeen defenders Scott McKenna and Mikey Devlin are included along with Kilmarnock’s Stuart Findlay, Stephen O’Donnell and Greg Taylor, Charlie Mulgrew, of Blackburn, Liam Palmer (Sheffield Wed), Andy Robertson – a Champions League finalist with Liverpool – and John Souttar (Hearts).
The options in attack are Killie’s Eamonn Brophy, Oliver Burke (West Brom), James Forrest, of Celtic, Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Marc McNulty (Hibs), Lewis Morgan (Celtic) and Johnny Russell (Sporting Kansas City).
Clarke – who was finally announced as sacked Alex McLeish’s replacement last week after leading Kilmarnock to third in the Premiership – said his first few days at Hampden had been hectic.
He said: “I’ve met a lot of people – I don’t remember any of their names!
“I’ve spent a lot of time on my phone, so the SFA can look forward to a nice big phone bill.
“It’s completely different to what I had before. I’m normally a person that likes to say a little and get out of the way.
“I have to be a bit more in the public eye. I have to speak to people a lot more. I’ll learn as I go along.”
Clarke also revealed his backroom team, with Killie assistant Alex Dyer coming on as his No 2.
Steven Reid will also serve as a coach.
Clarke said: “Alex (Dyer) knows me inside out. That one was easy, the only difficulty was persuading his wife she should give him up and let me and Scotland have him, until after the Euros.
“Steven (Reid) was a player when I was at West Brom.
“I persuaded him to keep playing when he wanted to retire at West Brom, then went on and played another year at Burnley with Sean Dyche.”