BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
ALLAN JOHNSTON has tipped Lewis Martin to be a Scotland under-21 star after revealing the Dunfermline defender has been on the cusp of Scot Gemmill’s last two squads.
Martin, 20, has been a regular for the Pars since the age of 17 and already has 93 senior appearances under his belt, with Johnston describing the youngster as one of their top performers in their maiden campaign back in the Championship.
Gemmill is known to be a huge admirer of the versatile stopper and regularly selected him while in charge of the national side’s under-19s.
Having been promoted to under-21 boss, Gemmill has not shied away from blooding talent from the second tier, including Ayr United’s Alan Forrest and Morton’s Jai Quitongo.
And Johnston reckons Martin is well equipped to be next in line.
He lauded: “Lewis has probably been one of our best players this season and he has actually been on the last couple of long-lists sent out by the Scotland under-21s.
“They send out a bigger roster of around 30 and then cut it down for the final squad. So he is very much in Scot Gemmill’s thoughts. Lewis was unlucky to miss out.
“He’s not far away and if he keeps on improving then he will get his chance for the under-21s, I’m sure.
“He is still young but Scot holds him in very high regard. He gave Lewis plenty of game-time at under-19 level and he clearly thinks he will ultimately be good enough for the 21s as well.
“Lewis would definitely handle that step up. There are a lot of boys in the under-21 set-up that don’t play regular football. Whereas Lewis has experience of playing week in, week out. That is how you mature and you can see he has come on leaps and bounds.”
A more pressing concern for Martin and Co., however, is claiming a pivotal three points against St Mirren this weekend.
The Pars have won just two league games all season – both 4-3 thrillers – and have slipped to second from bottom of the table. The rock-bottom Saints would move to within two points of them with a win in Paisley.
And Johnston knows he faces a mighty challenge as he attempts to out-think his former teammate Jack Ross.
He laughed: “He’s probably one of a small minority of football players who are quite intelligent!
“You saw that with the work he did away from the game and with the [players’ union] PFA Scotland, he was always bright and a good talker.
“I was at St Mirren with Jacko [Jack Ross] and Pottsy [Dunfermline coach John Potter] and he was a good lad. It’s great see him do well and he has clearly gained a lot of experience at Hearts and Alloa.
“I’m sure he’s enjoying his chance at a good club like St Mirren, it’s a brilliant opportunity at a place that will also be very close to his heart, I’m sure. That makes a difference.”
However there will be no room for sentiment in a fraught battle at the bottom.
Johnston added: “It’s about results now. We need to start putting a run together. You look at the next six or seven games and it is all teams round about us in the league, teams who we feel we should be able to catch.”