Under-21 International Challenge Match
Slovakia v Scotland
Wednesday, 9th November 2016, kick-off 4.30pm (local time)
Spartak Myjava, Myjava
Liam Smith hopes he can follow in his Hearts and Scotland Under-21 team mate John Souttar’s footsteps by securing a first-team place for club and country.
The full-back played 90 minutes in the Jambos’ 2-2 draw with St Johnstone on Saturday after returning from a short loan spell at Raith Rovers last week.
Scot Gemmill named Smith in his under-21 squad for tomorrow’s friendly against Slovakia after he missed out on last month’s matches against Iceland and FYR Macedonia through injury.
Now the 20-year-old has set his sights on making himself a regular starter at Hearts and a mainstay of the new-look Scotland Under-21 squad preparing for next year’s Euro 2019 qualifying campaign, just like Souttar.
He said: “It’s good to be back involved with the under-21s again.
“There are a lot of new faces in the squad from when I was last away in September but the focus is on preparing for the future and that gives us time to blend together.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to be involved this month as I hadn’t played much football after my injury but it’s good to be back and now I can focus on trying to play regularly, like John has.
“He plays every week and is normally away with Scotland when it comes to the international break and that is what I aspire to.”
Smith’s loan to Raith Rovers was cut short because of injury but after playing 45 minutes for the Hearts Development Squad last week, manager Robbie Neilson has no qualms about pitching him in at left-back in their Scottish Premiership match at the weekend.
Despite not playing as much as he had hoped for on loan, Smith is ready to make an impact on the firs-team.
He said: “It would have been great if I had played five or six games at Raith Rovers as the Championship is a good level but to come back and go straight back into the team at the weekend was a confidence booster and I’ll be looking to kick on.
“I’m probably more used to playing at right-back but Callum Paterson is there and doing a great job but my aim is to show what I can offer the team, wherever I play.
“The coaching staff at Hearts are good with us and every player knows what is expected of them.”
Scotland will play European Championship-bound Slovakia in Myjava tomorrow evening with a much younger squad with all players born in 1996 or later with a view to building for the future.
Smith has been impressed with new set up and is looking forward to tomorrow’s challenge.
He said: “Slovakia topped their group in qualifying ahead of Netherlands and Turkey so they will be a top side with good experience but everyone is ready.
“We need to make a good account of ourselves and try to build some momentum to take forward to next year.
“It won’t be easy but if we can do well then everyone will be delighted and if we don’t get the result we are looking for then it’s not the end of the world because right now is about learning and developing together.
“Most of the squad are new to this level but these matches can help us prepare for the future and this match will really lay down a marker for where we need to be if we want to be successful.”