Jack is the Real deal
A RISING star of Spanish football - who has already rubbed shoulders with Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos - is dreaming of turning out for Scotland at a World Cup.
Jack Harper may have been born on the Costa Del Sol, but the 16-year-old Real Madrid protege is proud of his family's Neilston roots and is determined to pull on the Dark Blue jersey one day.
And such has been his stunning form this season, which has seen him bag 25 goals for the Bernabeu youth team, Scotland's performance director Mark Wotte flew out to hold talks with him last week.
Harper told Barrhead Sport: "The fact that Mark has taken the time to come out and speak to me is very encouraging and makes me realize how serious I am about playing for Scotland.
"It would be absolutely amazing to play for Scotland and it is my goal in life is to reach a World Cup and represent my home nation.
"Even though I live in Spain, I feel Scottish - so I want to make my family proud and play for my country."
After spending a few days at the Ciudad Real Madrid complex on the outskirts of the capital checking on the youngster and speaking to youth chief Ramon Martinez, Wotte said: "Jack has been playing for Real Madrid's under-16s and we believe he's performing very well.
"I believe it is important we check on those players who qualify for Scotland, wherever they might be.
"There are possibilities for Jack with our under-17 side coached by Dean Gorre. We cannot ignore the fact we have an available Scottish player at the Real academy."
The footballing bug runs in the family, as dad John is a former Neilston Juniors player, while brothers Ryan and Mac are both on the books of clubs in Spain. The teenage star started his career with local club Los Boliches before moving to the Madrid Academy in 2009.
Playing in an attacking midfield role, Harper is a classic 'number 10' blessed with the ability to create as well as score goals from deep.
Early in his Madrid career, his coach Santiago Sanchez lauded the youth player stating: "He has a lot of talent and while he has a lot of developing to do, I really believe he will play for Real Madrid in years to come."
And while this is something that would be a dream come true for Harper, he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground for now. He said: "I've been here three years now and every year I'm getting closer to the first team.
"Every year is a big step and getting to the first team is really hard, but I have to have my head set on reaching it. It would be a dream come true to play for first team, I've been a Madrid fan since I was little." So while Harper has a genuine chance of becoming the next great hope for Scottish football - it is his Neilston background that is to thank for him turning his back on his native Spain.
This article appeared in Barrhead News 16 May 12