Hearts and Hibs form almost a third of Scotland U-21s

Callum Paterson has been called up. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Callum Paterson has been called up. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Scotland Under-21 head coach Billy Stark has included six players from the two Capital clubs in his 20-man pool for next Thursday’s Euro 2015 qualifier in the Netherlands.

Hearts players make up a quarter of the squad, with Jack Hamilton, Kevin McHattie, Jason Holt and Jamie Walker keeping their places, while team-mate Callum Paterson also earns a call-up. Hibs forward Danny Handling has been called into the squad for the first time.

There is no place, however, for Hearts pair Brad McKay and David Smith, who were both in the squad for the 6-0 demolition at the hands of England in Sheffield earlier this month. McKay started at centre-back on that harrowing night in Bramall Lane. Stark is hoping the group he has selected can banish the horrors of the England debacle in Nijmegen next week by emulating the displays which saw them take four points out of six from the Dutch in the last campaign.

“When you are as old as me and you have been in the game as long, you take a few dunts,” the 56-year-old said. “That was a big dunt, no doubt about it. But you learn from experience that it’s gone. You can’t pretend it didn’t happen. But the only thing we can do is show people we are going to be positive in everything we do and we are trying to make amends. Because the disappointing part is that there were people there to support Scotland and they are the ones we let down in a big way. But the players will feel they let themselves down because they know they are better than they showed that night.”

Stark did not have the chance to lift the players after the game given they went their separate ways but he feels most have bounced back. “You watch them with their clubs after it and I think you could maybe see the effects of it with one or two,” he said. “But I think in the main they went back and picked up their club form. Stuart Armstrong has scored in the last couple of (Dundee United) games after having an uncharacteristically poor game against England. That will help, that they have got it out of their systems with their clubs.”

Stark has made three changes to his squad. In addition to the Hearts pair, Islam Feruz is the other player to drop out, while Fulham defender Jack Grimmer is included.

Scotland Under-21 squad to face Netherlands: J Archer (Tottenham), J Hamilton (Hearts), C Kettings (Blackpool); S Findlay (Celtic), J Grimmer (Fulham), R Jack (Aberdeen), K McHattie (Hearts), C Robertson (Aberdeen), S Armstrong (Dundee Utd), S Bannigan (Partick), F Fyvie (Wigan), D Handling (Hibernian), J Holt (Hearts), L Macleod (Rangers), D McGeouch (Celtic); R Fraser (Bournemouth), S May (St Johnstone), C Paterson (Hearts), J Walker (Hearts), T Watt (Celtic).