When he stepped out onto the Hampden Park turf last weekend it was a proud moment for Oliver McBurnie .
Three years on from netting his first professional goal wearing the blue and white of Chester FC on a cold and wet January afternoon at Welling United, McBurnie led the line for Scotland in their friendly defeat to Costa Rica.
And while the 1-0 defeat may not have been in the script his debut was a nonetheless a dream come true for a player who has enjoyed a meteoric rise since playing for the Blues in 2015.
Speaking to the Chronicle, McBurnie, 21, said: "When you are a kid it is what you dream of, of course it is. It is a weird one, though, you don’t really think about what is happening until you speak to your friends and your family and get all the good will messages. It is just another game up until then, but when you finish it hits you.
“My whole family were so proud, particularly my Grandma. She’s from Glasgow and she said that as long as I play for Scotland that will do her. Whatever I achieve in football will come second best to playing for Scotland according to my Grandma.
“The past couple of years have been a real whirlwhind. Ever since I left Chester, really. Things have changed a lot since my time there.
“It’s three years since my first professional goal at Welling. I’m a confident guy and believe in my own ability but if you would have told me that three years from then I would have played in the Premier League and have played for Scotland then I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Having began his career with Bradford City, McBurnie arrived at Chester on loan in January 2015 as a tall, gangly 18-year-old with socks around his ankles and blessed with technique and vision far above National League level.
Five goals in 14 games over two loan spells during the 2014/15 season under Steve Burr led to a call-up for Scotland's under-19s side for the first time and also proved the catalyst for a move to Premier League side Swansea City the following summer.
Loan spells at Bristol Rovers and Newport County followed and a prolific spell in the Swansea U23 side pushed him into contention for the first team. He has so far appeared 16 times for the Swans in the Premier League.
He's currently on loan at Championship side Barnsley and his six goals in nine games for the Tykes was enough to convince Scotland boss Alex McLeish to hand him his chance against Costa Rica and Hungary. And while he credits his current loan spell with playing a key role in his international honours it is Chester where the journey really began.
Said McBurnie: “The manager at Swansea (Carlos Carvajal) told me he wanted me to be part of their future but also thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea if I went out on loan to get a few more games. There were quite a few options but I had already got a place near Barnsley and I had family living close so it seemed a no-brainer to me. I also knew the gaffer (Paul Heckingbottom), although he did leave a few days later.
“This spell so far has been massive for me and given me the chance to get out and play some games and try and get myself among the goal. Without this loan spell then it’s hard to imagine that I would have been able to get a call up to the Scotland squad so soon. It has been massively beneficial to me and I have loved my time at Barnsley so far.
“But my spell at Chester was just as important, if not more. It came at the perfect time for me as I things weren’t going great at Bradford and it was something that me and Bradford both knew I needed.
“Chester gave me my chance to play football. Of all the places I have been it was Chester where I improved the most in such a short space of time.
“My time at Chester actually helped bring about my first call-up for the Scotland under-19s. The coach, Ricky Sbragia, had been to watch me and been impressed. I’d been able to get senior football week in, week out and that call-up may not have happened had it not been for my time there. If it wasn’t for my spell at Chester who knows what would have happened.
“People have heard the stories about my rolled down socks and how it all started at Chester because the socks had no elastic in them. It is something that I have taken with me as I am a superstitious guy. If I score in a game then the next game I will do everything the same again, from keeping the same boots to wearing the same trainers to the game. The same if I don’t score, I will do everything different.
“It’s easy to think players move on from clubs and that their interest ends there. That might be the case for some but it isn’t the case for most lads. After games they are usually checking the scores of their old clubs on the phone and seeing how they have done. It is the same for me. I always look out for Chester after every game and it is a club that I have an affinity for, one that will stay with me as it played such a big role in my development."
And McBurnie encouraged more young players to experience their football grounding in the non-League football should the opportunity arise.
"The National League is so tough," he said.
"I was a 17/18 year-old kid who was playing against experienced senior pros who had been around the block and who had plenty of nous. They knocked me from pillar to post and I would be in bits after games and had bruises in places I didn’t even know I had muscles.
“Non-League football is a brilliant place for young players to get a grounding as it toughens you up. But it always has to be the right loan move, though. I was fortunate that Chester, at the time, were playing good football and it was a good place for me to be.
“Not all loans are great. At Bristol Rovers I wasn’t playing as much and I wasn’t as enjoyable, but every club has been good with me and I have learned something and taken something away from every one. Whether it has made me a better footballer or helped me grow as a person, every team has left a mark.”
“For me the aim is to get as far as I can. Now I have tasted international football I want to do what I can to make sure I can experience more and more of it.
“And as for my club career the goal is to get back playing and scoring regularly in the Premier League. It still feels so surreal what has happened over the last three years or so and to have played for Scotland and for Swansea in the Premier League still feels like a dream. I just have to stay humble and keep working hard at what I am doing and see where it takes me, that has served me well so far."