Karamoko Dembele: Scotland Under-16 call 'will benefit' Celtic 13-year-old

Karamoko Dembele did not feature in Sunday's win over Northern Ireland in Edinburgh
Dembele did not feature in Sunday's win over Northern Ireland in Edinburgh

Karamoko Dembele will be an improved player by the end of his week with the Scotland Under-16s even if he does not play - says coach Brian McLaughlin.

The 13-year-old Celtic player was an unused substitute as Scotland beat Northern Ireland 2-0 on Sunday.

"If we feel it's beneficial to play him, he plays," McLaughlin told BBC Scotland. "He'll become a better player just training with these boys."

Scotland have Victory Shield games to come against Wales and Ireland.

Dembele has been the subject of significant media attention since playing for Celtic's under-20 side earlier this month.

"If we play someone or don't play someone, we do it with the best interests of the young player - or the young boy because that's all he is - in mind," McLaughlin said.

Hamilton Accies' Taylor Wilson and Rangers' Zac Butterworth were on target against Northern Ireland, with the bulk of the squad coming from the Scottish Football Association's Performance Schools.

Only two of the starting XI did not: goalkeeper Ryan Mullen attends Celtic's own equivalent school - St Ninians - and defender Luis Binks is with Tottenham's youth academy.

Stand-out performers included central midfielder Billy Gilmour, who plays for Rangers, and Hearts' Chris Hamilton, who captained Scotland from right back.

Celtic's Dembele is quite a bit shorter than the others in the Scotland squad
Celtic's Dembele is quite a bit shorter than the others in the Scotland squad

McLaughlin admits that bringing Dembele into the squad to play with players two years his senior was not a decision taken lightly.

He explained: "You always think about dynamics - is it positive, not just for that young player but for everyone?

"I know the boy quite well so we made the decision it would be good for him, good for the other ones around him.

"We'll have other ones who probably feel they should be here, but I know them as well and I know as we're training here, they'll be training just as hard to make sure they get in the next squad."

Dembele is reportedly being monitored by England and is also eligible to play for the Ivory Coast, with McLaughlin underlining that he is not being fast-tracked by Scotland simply to entice him to commit to his international future.

"It's not about asking anyone to commit for Scotland," he stressed.

"All we're trying to do for seven days is to make sure the boys enjoy the experience. We're not here to try to convince anyone or push anyone."

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