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Football: Kids will lead us out of the wilderness vows Smith.

Byline: Scotland 1 USA 1

WALTER SMITH has told Scotland's young kids that they have made the big international stage - now they've got to make sure they don't fall off.

The Scotland boss played eight players aged 23 or under during Saturday's friendly draw against World Cup finalists USA at Hampden.

Smith insisted that the likes of 20-year-old Hibs star Scott Brown, who came off the bench for his debut, are the country's future as he sets about the task of leading Scotland into the 2008 European Championship finals.

He said: "They still have a lot of hurdles to overcome in their careers before they become established international players but this is a good starting position for me.

"They are only starting out and everyone has to be careful not to burden them too much with expectation because how do you know what they are going to be like in five years?

"There are plenty of players who have gained their first caps at the age of 21 or 22 and not had a career at 25 or 26.

"We have to be careful how we handle them because at international level they perhaps gain a bit of a profile but then struggle at their clubs."

USA defender Jonathan Spector believes Scotland will once again become a serious force at international level. Spector picked out his Manchester United team-mate Darren Fletcher as the key man for the Scots.

"I think they're a good team," he said. "Darren Fletcher played really well. He was drifting to my side a lot but they also had (Christian) Dailly pushed up high on my side too so I had to deal with both of them."

Fletcher has already become a crowd favourite for Scotland and is being hailed as the man who can rescue his country after some disappointing times for the international side.

And Spector, who became good friends with Fletcher before joining Charlton on loan this season, is sure the young Scot will be able to cope with the demands.

"He's used to that pressure from playing for Manchester United because there is always pressure to win there," Spector said.

"And as he showed against Chelsea he's able to deal with that."

Spector also picked out Everton's James McFadden as a key player for the future.

"He came on and changed the game for them, holding the ball up a lot and creating opportunities," Spector said.

A 1-1 draw represents a good result for Scotland against a side ranked seventh in the world and PSV Eindhoven winger DaMarcus Beasley was another American to come away impressed with the Scots.

"They're a good team. I thought they were very well organised at the back," he said.

USA qualified for next summer's World Cup by winning the CONCACAF group ahead of Mexico, but Beasley added that playing against any European opposition is always a much tougher proposition.

"Our CONCACAF group isn't that strong so you have a lot more time on the ball, but anybody from Europe can give us a good game," he said.

"We get the Spanish style of football in CONCACAF with the ball on the floor, but whenever you come here, especially in the UK, the ball is in the air and they are going to have a bit more fight."

Smith has only one more friendly - against Switzerland in March - confirmed before the start of next year's European Championship qualifiers.

CAPTION(S):

OFF DAMARC: The Americans get an early penalty to go 1-0 up as DaMarcus Beasley is brought down by Christian Dailly
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 14, 2005
Words:594
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