John Souttar’s club form at Hearts prompted many pundits and punters alike to suggest that he must be knocking on the door for a call-up to Alex McLeish’s senior Scotland set-up.
McLeish, no less, even namechecked him in his own interview with The Official Scotland Podcast.
Long tipped as one to watch, ‘Soapy’ has been a stand-out for the Jam Tarts this season but for the moment is content to concentrate on the Under-21s as they continue their European Championship qualifying campaign away to Andorra tonight.
John, talk us through the campaign so far.
It’s fair to say there have been ups and downs. To beat the Netherlands 2-0 back in September at the Paisley 2021 Stadium was great for the boys. It wasn’t a smash and grab win – we fully deserved it on the night and we took a lot out of that game. I think winning away in Latvia, in difficult conditions, also showed the character of the squad. We’ve had a couple of results since that have disappointed us bit we’re only focusing on beating Andorra now.
You and your central defensive partner Scott McKenna didn’t give the Dutch an inch that night in Paisley. How pleased were you to see him win a first call-up to the full squad?
I was delighted for Scott. It’s what every single in the Under-21 squad wants to achieve – to do enough to progress to getting a chance with the A team. Scott’s had a great season for Aberdeen and I’m sure he’ll do well if he gets an opportunity to play against Costa Rica.
Who is our next tip to break through?
I think a good few of the boys are capable of playing at a higher level. It was flattering to hear my name mentioned and it’s obviously a dream to one day represent Scotland at senior level but I haven’t let it impact on my focus. If it happens it will be as a consequence of me doing well with Hearts and the Under-21s so that’s my objective. In terms of the others, the likes of Greg Docherty and Lewis Morgan are doing really well at club level so will be hoping to step up. I think we’re all encouraged by the likes of Scott and Oli McBurnie getting their chance. That pathway is there for us if we earn our shot.
The absence of Oli and Scott has opened the door for three new faces in the Under-21 squad, including a familiar face from Dundee United and Hearts.
I’m just relieved to know that Robbie Muirhead’s okay. I was starting to worry about him. I hadn’t heard much since he left Hearts for MK Dons. Seriously, though, I know how good he can be and what he’ll bring to the group. He won’t let anyone down if he gets a chance against Andorra.
How do you see the game itself on Friday evening?
It’s simple and there’s no need to overcomplicate it. We want to win. Scot Gemmill and his staff have done everything they possibly could have to prepare us for the game so it’s up to us now.
Andorra v Scotland, Friday 23 March, kick-off 6pm (local time), Estadi Comunal, Andorra la Vella.
Josh Donaldson (Dundee United)
Ross Doohan (Celtic)
Ryan Fulton (Hamilton)
Jason Kerr (St Johnstone)
John Souttar (Heart of Midlothian)
Calvin Miller (Celtic)
Liam Smith (Heart of Midlothian*)
Greg Taylor (Kilmarnock)
Iain Wilson (Kilmarnock)
Liam Burt (Rangers****)
Allan Campbell (Motherwell)
Chris Cadden (Motherwell)
Greg Docherty (Rangers)
Kyle Magennis (St Mirren)
Stephen Mallan (Barnsley)
Lewis Morgan (Celtic***)
Harvey St Clair (Chelsea)
Eamonn Brophy (Kilmarnock)
Oliver Burke (West Bromwich Albion)
Ryan Hardie (Rangers**)
Robbie Muirhead (MK Dons)
Scott Wright (Aberdeen)
*On loan to St Mirren
**On loan to Livingston
***On loan to St Mirren
****On loan to Dumbarton