Everton Under-23 striker Fraser Hornby says his goalscoring heroics for Scotland Under-21s were inspired by valuable tips from his coaches at Goodison Park.
Hornby, who celebrates his 19th birthday today, scored both goals as Scot Gemmill’s team stunned Holland 2-1 on Tuesday.
His twin-strike against the Dutch followed a hat-trick in Scotland’s 3-0 victory over Andorra seven days ago. It is more than the quantity of Hornby’s goals which has impressed, with the striker delivering a variety of accomplished finishes in the past week.
He demonstrated excellent technique to control a loose clearance from Holland goalkeeper Justin Bijlow and arc the ball home from 40 yards – before winning the game from the penalty spot in the closing minutes.
His treble against Andorra was comprised of a powerful header, another expertly-taken penalty and a first-time poacher’s finish.
And Hornby revealed claiming the match ball in the meeting with Andorra – in front of Scotland senior boss Alex McLeish – was partly responsible for him to taking on his audacious effort in Holland.
“You hear it all the time, strikers go through purple patches and if you have a game where you score a few goals then you are on a high and it gives you the confidence to take chances when they come,” Hornby told evertontv.
“As soon as I hit the shot against Holland I looked up and it started off so wide of the post – but it kept curling and curling, and thankfully it went in.
“I was a little bit nervous taking the penalty but if you are a striker and want to score goals, you will put yourself forward.
“It is a free shot at the goal from 12 yards, so you fancy your chances.
“In certain pressure situations it can become harder. But if you have a set routine and are confident in the way you strike the ball, there is no problem with it.”
Hornby has six goals in seven Scotland Under-21 appearances, having only made his debut for the team in the summer’s Toulon Tournament – where the Scots reached the semi-finals before losing a close contest to England.
His lightning progress on the international stage has mirrored the rate of the player’s development at Everton – particularly since he was pushed into a more advanced position in the Blues’ Under-18 side.
Hornby was originally a midfielder and after making the transition to striker with the aid of Under-18 boss Paul Tait, he is being tutored daily on the art of forward play by David Unsworth, Francis Jeffers and John Ebbrell, the Under-23s’ coaching team.
Manager Unsworth, especially, is helping Hornby hone his predatory instincts. And the player, who made his Everton Under-23 bow last October, two months before appearing for the first team in a Europa League match at Apollon Limassol, is proving a quick learner.
In Holland he was sent into combat against Manchester United defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah, currently on loan at Fulham, and Rick van Drongelen, a centre-half from Hamburg with significant Bundesliga experience.
“Being in an Under-21 national side, you are going to be playing against top, top players,” said Hornby, who penned a contract in the summer to tie him to Everton until at least June 2021.
“And it is great for me, still as a young player, to test myself against some of the best defenders in Europe.
“I am still one of the youngest boys in the Under-21 squad and most of them are playing first team football, week in, week out.
“We are a really close-knit group and being around them every day has made me mature a bit.
"As a striker, you always have to try to play within the width of the goal, you have to be alive in the box all the time.
“The coaches at Everton are always getting on at me to stay between the sticks. I still have a midfielder’s brain on me a bit. I like to come short and link the play.
“But they are always telling me to stay in the box and that is where I am going to score most of my goals.
“With my height, having heading as a strength was vital. And when I made the switch to striker, my coaches at Under-18 level, Paul Tait and Kevin Sheedy, just really wanted me to put an emphasis on that becoming an asset.”
Hornby, along with his Under-23 colleagues, has intermittently joined first-team training over the past year – for an extended period ahead of his senior debut.
And he seizes every opportunity to study Everton’s premier centre-forwards at work.
“Every time I have trained with the first team, the strikers have been really good with me, so it is about trying to take little things they do and put them into my game,” added Hornby.
“It [the major strength of Premier League strikers] is being really clinical inside the box. In certain games, you might only get one or two chances and it is important at the top level that you put them away.”
“The international break has done me the world of good. I am off the mark with my goalscoring and hopefully I can continue that form for Everton.”