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Victory is everything, second is nowhere for fired-up Calum


HEARTS star Calum Elliot has revealed that his runners-up medal from this summer's under-19 European Championships in Poland means nothing to him - because he regards himself as a winner.

The striker, currently on loan at Motherwell below, was an integral part of Archie Gemmill's side that exceeded all expectations by making it to the final of the competition thanks to a draw with Portugal and wins against both Turkey and the Czech Republic.

Although there was no fairytale ending to the story, with the wee Scots going down 2-1 in the final to Spain despite a battling display, the players were lauded in this country for their performances during the tournament.

But for Elliot, who has been promoted to the under-21 set-up following several good showings, the experience does not hold happy memories. And that is why he is determined to help Archie Knox's under-21 side defeat France tomorrow night to give them a chance of booking a place in the European Championships and himself another shot at the finals of a major international competition.

With only three teams in each qualifying group, and the sides meeting just once, an opening-match defeat away to Slovenia earlier this month has left the Scots needing to beat their Gallic opponents by a greater margin than the French defeat Slovenia next Tuesday. "It was a massive achievement getting to the final but we don't only want to be remembered as the team that finished runners-up there," said 19-year-old Elliot. "We want to be remembered as the team that progressed through to the under-21s and went on to do things at that level."

"People ask me if I was proud at having got to the final but the main feeling I had was disappointment. It was great to get to the final but at the end of the day we went home with losers' medals and people only remember the winners.

"That's what we have to strive towards, going that step further and actually winning things. To be honest what we did with the under-19s doesn't really rank up there with the best moments of my career because we didn't win anything.

"Losing out in the final really took the shine off the tournament for us, but what it does do is make you all the more determined to do better.

"We now have a chance to get to a tournament and it would be good to do that and have another go and doing well."

Of course beating a French team that includes the likes of Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini, who has chalked up more than 50 games for Gunners, is easier said than done but it's a test that Elliot is relishing. Indeed, the whole experience of being involved in the international set-up is one Elliot enjoys.

"I love being away with Scotland," he said. "It's obviously a must-win game for us but when you play for any team you want to win so I don't feel any added pressure with that.

"France have a lot of very good players and they are probably the favourites but, with the under-19s, we showed that the favourites don't always win and hopefully we can do that again. If we are determined and give it our best shot then you can compete with teams who supposedly have better players to pick from."

Elliot has already featured for the under-21s marking his debut against Iceland back in February with two goals in a 4-0 victory at Firhill. He was also a part of the squad that travelled to Slovenia and slumped to a disappointing 1-0 defeat earlier this month. His chances of being involved again tomorrow night and adding to his cap haul have been enhanced by the withdrawal from the squad of Rangers striker Ross McCormack who is suffering from an illness.

Although Elliot, too, almost had to pull out of match after picking up a head-knock on his Motherwell debut in a clash with Falkirk's Steven Thomson which saw the Bairn red-carded. Elliot was caught off the ball by Thomson and had to be substituted after the incident amid fears that he had been concussed.

However, he insisted today he is raring to go and is just waiting to get the nod from Knox to say he will be involved.

"I wasn't concussed although it was a bit of a sore one right enough!" admitted Elliot.

"I guess he must have taken something I said the wrong way but I'm ok to play and looking forward to the game tomorrow night.

"If there was any doubt over my fitness I wouldn't be with the squad just now and I definitely want to be involved in the match.

"I've scored for the 21s before and then went away with the 19s in the summer so it's nice to be back up at this level .

"Being with Scotland gives you the opportunity to go away for a few days and experience different types of training and also to train and play with different players which is good.

"Hopefully I can do well when I'm here and try and establish myself at this level and make sure that I'm a regular starter in the future.

"Obviously there are a lot of very good strikers here and the final decision will lie with the manager but if you are playing well and scoring goals it will be hard for him to leave you out.

"If I do get the chance I'll be trying to get a win for Scotland first and foremost but also looking to show I should be involved regularly."

Taken from the Scotsman

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