Oli McBurnie believes he is in a much better position to stake a claim for a Scotland striking role following his breakthrough campaign for Swansea.
McBurnie has a real chance of featuring in the opening European Championship qualifiers against Kazakhstan and San Marino amid the absence of Steven Naismith, Steven Fletcher and Leigh Griffiths.
The 22-year-old has scored 18 goals in 35 appearances for Swansea this season and is looking for his seventh cap and first international goal in Astana on Thursday.
McBurnie first came into the Scotland squad during a goalscoring spree on loan with Barnsley in Alex McLeish’s first games in charge against Costa Rica and Hungary, but he feels much more prepared to make an impact a year on.
“This is my first year being number nine at Swansea and being the main man so it was an important year for me,” the former Bradford player said.
“It’s almost my first year starting the full season playing first-team football. It’s been exciting, it’s been a challenge, it’s been tough but I have really enjoyed it and I think I have come on so much as a player.
“I have the added responsibility on my shoulders and people look to me to score goals rather than being a bit-part player, so it has been really good for my development.
“The first time I came into the squad I was on loan at Barnsley and I would say I have definitely come on so much as a player, not just in terms of football but also mentality-wise as a person, I feel I have grown up a lot. I definitely feel I am ready for it now.”
With Naismith recovering from knee surgery, Fletcher managing injuries and Griffiths dealing with personal issues, Scotland manager McLeish has lost three players with 101 caps and 23 goals between them.
The responsibility lies with the likes of McBurnie, Marc McNulty, Oliver Burke and Johnny Russell to provide a goalscoring threat.
McBurnie said: “I don’t know if there’s more pressure but that’s what comes with it. You are playing at the highest level of football and there is always going to be pressure.
“But naturally every time I get called up, I want to impress as much as I can. I’ve had tasters of it now and I want to settle myself down and make a claim for it.
“I have 18 goals now, 10 in the last 10. I picked up an illness and missed the last three games unfortunately but I feel good, I feel like I’m on form.
“I feel like it’s a good time for me to come into the international games. I’ve been scoring goals so hopefully I can take that into these games. As strikers, it’s your food and drink is your goals. It’s where you want to make your name, by scoring goals.
“A lot of goals have dropped out with the experience we have lost but people said that in the last games and Jamesy (Forrest) scored five in two. So there’s goals in the team, whether it’s from the strikers or other positions.
“But naturally as a striker you want to be the ones to pick up the goals.”
McBurnie is encouraged that McLeish is prepared to pick in-form players.
“It’s always been the message from this gaffer – the ones that are doing it for their clubs are going to get a chance,” he said.
“That’s what you have got to keep doing, play as much as you can and do as well as you can for your club and hopefully it comes out into your international form.
“It’s good from the gaffer that if you are doing well for your club you are going to get noticed, it’s not just going to be the same faces no matter what.”