Diamond shines brightly in captain's role for Scotland

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Zander Diamond, the Scotland Under-21 defender, admits he has been shocked by his rapid rise from an Aberdeen youth player to captain of the Under-21s and puts a lot of that down to help from the Dons captain, Russell Anderson.

Zander Diamond, the Scotland Under-21 defender, admits he has been shocked by his rapid rise from an Aberdeen youth player to captain of the Under-21s and puts a lot of that down to help from the Dons captain, Russell Anderson.

Diamond broke into the Aberdeen side last season, under the former manager Steve Paterson, and has made further progress under the guidance of Jimmy Calderwood and Jimmy Nicholl, who replaced Paterson in the summer.

Aberdeen are one of the Scottish Premier League's form teams and have yet to concede a goal in five games. Much of this has been down to the partnership between Anderson and Diamond in the centre of defence.

The 19-year-old was handed the captaincy by coach Rainer Bonhof following a good performance against Spain last Thursday, although the demotion of Ross County's Jamie McCunnie from the role may be linked to a curfew-breaking incident which overshadowed the build-up to the Under-21s' European qualifier against Slovenia at St Johnstone's McDiarmid Park.

Scotland took an 11th-minute lead through David Clarkson, but were pegged back when Borus Semler struck following a mistake by Diamond. The captain refused to dwell on the incident and believes the single point has not done too much damage to their hopes of qualifying.

"I've been surprised how quickly things have moved on for me but I've matured well and quickly under Steve Paterson and the two Jimmys," said Diamond. "Russell is in the senior team and a leader on the park so you've got to respect someone like him, he's been seven or eight years with Aberdeen and I've learned a lot by playing alongside him.

"I didn't think we would go five games unbeaten but we had belief at the start of the season and that's maybe something that was missing before.

"The new manager is brilliant, the training is much sharper and you don't want to do anything wrong with either of them," Diamond added. "They have a laugh and a joke with the lads, but only when the work has been done, so it's a good place to be at the moment.

"I was pleased with my performance for the Under-21s, although I should have done better at the goal. When you make a mistake there is no point dwelling on it, the best thing to do is go and put it right. Unfortunately we couldn't get the second goal, even though we did create a few chances."

Diamond was only informed he would be captain an hour before kick-off, so was unable to phone his parents and tell them to expect him to lead the team out. However, he believes it would have been a wonderful surprise for them.

"I only found out that I was going to be captain an hour before the game when I had to come in and sign something," Diamond revealed. "It is a great honour to be made captain in my first qualifier. My parents were up from Dumbarton but I didn't get a chance to tell them I was going to lead the teams out, so it would have been a nice little shock for them."

The Rangers defender Alan Hutton is doubtful for Sunday's Premier League game with Hearts after the right-back was taken off during the Under 21s' game with Slovenia. A touchline collision with Dejan Urbanc left Hutton requiring extensive treatment on an ankle ligament injury before eventually leaving the field.

The Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, already has injury problems to contend with. Alex Rae is out with a torn calf and he joins longer-term casualties Gavin Rae and Hamed Namouchi on the sidelines.

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