Robbie Neilson today acclaimed Billy King’s positive impact this season as the Hearts winger prepares for a Scotland Under-21 debut on Monday.
King wasn’t used in the Under-21s’ 1-1 draw with Slovakia last night and is now set to play for Billy Stark’s side against Luxembourg in their final European Championship qualifier.
Also expected to debut in the match in Differdange are his Hearts colleagues, goalkeeper Jack Hamilton and winger Sam Nicholson. They were both unused substitutes against Slovakia last night. The Scots are unable to qualify from their group and Stark will now introduce younger players eligible for the 2017 European Championship qualifying campaign.
Neilson explained how a surge of confidence has helped propel King from the fringes of the Tynecastle team to the Scotland Under-21 squad. The Hearts head coach admitted he is delighted with the 20-year-old’s impact, which resulted in a call-up by Stark on Sunday evening.
“Billy has been fantastic. He’s positive, he’s energetic, he’s quick and he’s scoring goals,” Neilson told the Evening News. “I’m delighted for him because he’s a great kid. He seems to have his confidence now and he’s got a bit of self- belief. He’s learning to trust in his own ability and you can struggle with that when you’re a young kid. When you get to 28 or 29, you just go out and play because you know what you’re capable of. When you’re young, if somebody takes the ball off you in the first minute, it can knock you right off your game.
“Billy is learning that, when you play against a full-back, he can take the ball off you three times out of five. The other twice, you can actually go and create something. You should always keep getting the ball and keep going at people.
“I played behind [Saulius] Mikoliunas and he was great to play behind. I would give him the ball and he would go at people. The defender would take it off him and I would give him it again and he would go at him again. That one time he got past his man, he created an opportunity for us to score.
“There are players who can do that and Billy is somebody who can. He’s getting strong and fitter. He’s working in the gym, he’s working on his fitness and I’m sure he will do really well.”