THE Helensburgh grandfather of a young footballer at the centre of an international selection row says he’s delighted at his grandson’s decision.

Manchester United’s Scott McTominay was criticised by former Scotland international Charlie Nicholas for his decision to pursue an international career with Scotland, for whom he qualifies through his Burgh-born father, rather than England.

But grandpa Frank, a sprightly 83-year-old who still lives in the town and has followed Scott’s career closely since he was a boy, revealed that his grandson’s preference to pledge his future to Scotland isn’t new.

“Scott has always said that he’s more Scottish than he is English,” Frank said.

“That’s true. He said that when he was about 16.

“He also came up to Cumbernauld for training sessions after that. But it just died a death after that. The opportunity never arose at any level.

“When he was younger he said that he felt more Scottish than English. When he got into the United team the big question for me was: ‘Will he choose to play for Scotland?’ But we had no input. We wanted him to make his own decision.

“A lot of his relations come from Scotland. We’re all very close. He’s got a lot of connections in Helensburgh, both on my wife’s side and on my side as well. A lot of people in Helensburgh are quite chuffed at this.”

McTominay, 23, is set to be named in the Scotland squad for the friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary later this month at Hampden this week, after impressing Old Trafford boss Jose Mourinho, who called him into the first team after he caught his eye in United’s youth set-up.

He has only come to prominence relatively recently after a sudden growth spurt stalled his footballing development.

But Frank has known about his grandson’s potential for some time.

“Whenever Scott came up to Helensburgh he would be battering a ball about the back garden with his cousins,” he said.

“Even when he was five or six he could control and trap the ball from any angle.

“He’s been at Manchester since he was about six years of age. They have been very, very good with him.

“He was very small for a long time. But in the last few years he has had a massive growth spurt. He didn’t play football in that time. He was in the gym working under physiotherapists and doctors.

“When he finished that, Nicky Butt (the former United player who is now head of the academy) came to him and said: ‘Right Scott, you’re going straight into the under-23 side’. He went pretty much right through the season, apart from a few games that he missed with a hip injury, with them.”

His assured performances for the youth side soon caught the eye of United manager Jose Mourinho who put him on the bench for a game against Swansea City last April and then handed him his debut as a substitute against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium and his first start in a game against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford in May.

His grandfather said: “The next thing that happened to Scott after was he, Demetri Mitchell, who is now on loan at Hearts, and Axel Tuanzebe, who is on loan at Aston Villa, went to America in pre-season training. He played against Real Madrid, Real Salt Lake and the Norwegian team Valerenga, who he scored a goal against, and Sampdoria.”

McTominay has gone from strength to strength in the 2017/18 campaign and has performed so impressively in his outings for United both domestically and in Europe that he was offered a contract extension that ties him to Old Trafford until 2021 back in October.

The fact that he was preferred to Paul Pogba - the French midfielder who joined United for a then world record £89 million fee from Juventus last summer – in games against Huddersfield and Sevilla last month underline just how well he has fared.

“Jose Mourinho has done very well with him,” said his proud grandfather. “He has been very, very good with him indeed.

"He’s given him a right good run, six games on the trot. He has played against Benfica, CSKA Moscow and Sevilla in Europe. I like the way he’s been treated.”

Now young McTominay looks poised to take his burgeoning career to the next level by representing Scotland, and the strong possibility of him starting in the Nations League games against Albania and Israel later this year, and then in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, is an exciting one for supporters.

His grandfather, who first went to see his country in action at Hampden nearly 70 years ago, admitted that the Costa Rica game on Friday, March 23, will be a great occasion for his Scottish relations if Scott is involved.

“We’ll be there,” he said. “I couldn’t say that Scott watched Scotland games as a boy. He has always been more of a player than a watcher. It was just football, football, football with him from a very young age.

“But when I was young I saw all the Scotland B teams. I’m going back a bit, to the 1950s. I had a day off from my work on a Wednesday and would go along to watch all the B internationals at Hampden with a friend.

“I saw Duncan Edwards play for England, Trevor Ford and John Charles play for Wales and Willie Woodburn and Jimmy Cowan play for Scotland in those games.

"But the Scottish player who I always liked was Jimmy Johnstone. He really stuck out for me. I saw a lot of Celtic playing at European level at that time. I liked the better stuff.”