Hearts’ Andy Webster relishing role as old head

Leigh Griffiths, Tony Watt and Jordan Rhodes get a feel for Maksimir 'Stadium. Picture: PA

Leigh Griffiths, Tony Watt and Jordan Rhodes get a feel for Maksimir 'Stadium. Picture: PA

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ANDY WEBSTER wants to help nurture Scotland’s new generation, starting tonight against Croatia.

Leigh Griffiths is expected to start the match in Zagreb, with Grant Hanley and Barry Bannan also likely to be involved as national coach Gordon Strachan promotes younger players. Ryan Jack, Stuart Armstrong and Tony Watt could also play a part. Webster, 31, believes learning from experience is vital for young players. He cited the influence of established names like Paul Lambert and Craig Burley on him when he first joined the Scotland squad.

Although this evening’s World Cup qualifier is meaningless for the Scots, helping develop a new crop of players is high on the agenda.

“You look around the squad and there’s a lot of younger, inexperienced but definitely talented boys coming in,” said Webster. “They’ll be looking to get involved in games. I think that puts extra onus on the experienced players because you’ve been there before and you try to help them as much as you possibly can.

“With young players, there’s a freshness. They’re vibrant and they bring something different. They don’t have the experience but sometimes that’s not a bad thing because you can go and express yourself as you would at your club.

“My first cap was Austria at home just over ten years ago. People like Paul Lambert and Craig Burley were involved so you watch them and how they conduct themselves – whether it be in the hotel, at training, before games, wherever. It’s great to see how they go about their business and learn from top professionals who have played at the highest level.”

Strachan, who has named James Morrison captain for tonight, praised Griffiths for his attitude and application during Scotland training sessions this week. “Leigh has played well, whether it’s with people playing off him or the lone role,” he said. “Leigh Griffiths has been so easy to manage it’s incredible,” he said. “He keeps himself to himself but, when you speak to him, he’s always attentive, which is good. I’ve enjoyed his company.”

Webster revealed he is preparing for a coaching career by studying for his UEFA A

Licence. “I had a week off spending time in the gym and then I had a week down at Largs doing my A Licence. I think the days of players doing nothing over the summer and coming back for pre-season overweight are long gone.

“You get a different perception of how the game’s played from the coaching courses. It’s great to see a different side of it. As a footballer, it’s about you as an individual. As a coach, you’re looking after the team and how you can overcome certain situations on and off the pitch. It gives you a different insight and a different angle on how football is played.

“I did the introduction to the A Licence last week and I’ve already done the B Licence. I’m looking at the coaching side of it first and then, if I get my A Licence, I’ll take it from there. It’s something I think I would enjoy.”

Meanwhile, former Hearts striker Christian Nade is on the verge of a return to Scottish football with Second Division East Fife. Willie Aitchison and Kevin Drinkell will be the Methil club’s new management team.