By RJ Mitchell
DAVID GILMOUR has admitted that Scotland’s second European Mixed Team Championship Subgroup One tie with the Czech Republic will represent a step up in class.
With the Scots defeating Luxembourg 5-0 on Thursday and their Czech rivals posting a similar success against the same opposition in last night’s shoot out, we’re set up for a high noon encounter today with a play-off place against the winners of Subgroup2 on Sunday up for grabs.
While Badminton Scotland’s Head of Performance admitted he was more than happy with the victory over a spirited but limited Luxembourg side, Gilmour has cited Czech singles ace Jan Louda as a huge threat to home hopes in this afternoon’s 2pm encounter at the National Academy, Scotstoun.
But with Scotland displaying admirable strength in depth against the beleaguered Low Country ensemble, Gilmour, who was capped 50-times in the national shirt during a storied career, is confident we have the quality to claim victory over the best of five match-ups spanning singles, women’s and men’s doubles and mixed doubles.
Gilmour said: “The Czechs will definitely be a step up and we spent quite a bit of time on Friday doing our analysis on them and making sure that the team had all the information they needed ahead of this tie which is always very important.
“So a really positive mental approach with good discipline allowing us to play to our strengths and play our game rather than being to bothered with how the opposition play will be essential.
“If we stick to maximising our strengths that will stand us in good stead and give us the best chance to beat the Czechs
“Jan (Louda) spent a bit of time over here last year and trained with us and he is a very good player who is steady and covers the court really well.
“Callum’s (Smith) natural game is to be quite aggressive and if he is performing at the top of his form then I think he could really do some damage.
“But it will be a challenge as Jan is a very composed player and he will be a hard opponent to breakdown but I’d definitely say Callum has the game to do that.
“Obviously with Kirsty (Gilmour) she has had that slight injury issue and we had to take that into consideration against Luxembourg and the fact that we have more than one match to play over the weekend.
“So it was a case of reviewing that and seeing where she is and then we will make the selection call for the Czech tie based on that.
“But Rachel (Sugden) did very well and it is really pleasing to have the next generation coming through and giving us this type of selection headache.”
Reflecting on the most pleasing aspects of the victor over Luxembourg on Thursday Gilmour said: “I think the mental approach of both Callum and Rachel in the singles was very good against Luxembourg. They both kept the pace up really well and played to their strengths while also retaining their discipline.
“I thought Rachel handled things very well in starting the first tie for us and we have been working on the mental side of things with her and I think that probably stood her in good stead in that regard.
“The experience of playing that first ladies’ singles tie in a European qualifier in front of a home crowd is something she can really bank and learn from and she did well.
“With Callum obviously he had been unwell and missed some training so it was great to see him come out and perform strongly like that.
“But I felt that right the way though the team with the doubles pairings everyone performed strongly and set a good standard for the rest of the weekend.”
This weekend’s EMTCQ22, sponsored by Victor and NCS, is the first time since Scotland claimed a 19th place finish in the 2007 Sudirman Cup, which was also held at Scotstoun, that the national team has courted a home crowd in a major team tournament and Gilmour purred at the reaction on Thursday.
He said: “I thought the crowd were fantastic and I absolutely loved what they gave the players. We don’t get many opportunities to do this and put on a show like this and it was almost like a novelty it had been so long since the players have had the opportunity to play in front of a home support who got so engaged.
“I said to the players to make sure they really enjoyed it as it is not the type of thing that comes around too often, but hopefully we get more of the same this afternoon and maybe even a few more along because there will be some great badminton played this afternoon of that there is no doubt.”
The Scots are desperate to replicate their fifth place finish in the finals two years back in Vantaa, Finland, and should they bounce the Czechs a meeting with either Ireland or Sweden on Sunday seems certain
Gilmour was in no mood to play down the importance of securing a place at Aire-sur-la-Lys, in France next year: “It is one of our main goals to make the Europeans as a team. We have been beginning to gather some really good performances together recently and we are growing as a group.
“In that respect it really is vital we have something concrete to show for all the progress the players are making and qualifying for France next year would be a pleasing way of achieving that.
“In terms of the other group Ireland looked very strong in winning their opening tie 5-0 against Portugal and they are very strong particularly in the men’s singles and their meeting with Sweden which is on court before us today will decide who makes the play off from the other group.
“But our job is to make sure we are there first and foremost and then to be ready to take on all comers.”
Find out more