Robbie Neilson today urged Callum Paterson to glean plenty of knowledge from his time with the Scotland squad and use it to cement his international future.
The Hearts head coach hopes to see Paterson become a regular in squads under national coach Gordon Strachan, which would also benefit his club.
The 20-year-old was promoted from the Scotland Under-21s and joined the full group earlier this week for the first time. He is unlikely to play in tonight’s European Championship qualifier with the Republic of Ireland or Tuesday’s friendly against England. Strachan’s intention was to grant him experience of top level international football, likewise Lewis Macleod of Rangers.
Neilson wants Paterson to embrace the situation and learn as much as possible from experienced internationalists like Scott Brown, Darren Fletcher and Shaun Maloney. Neilson believes the exposure can help Hearts in the long run, too.
“I’ve spoken to Callum a couple of times this week. It’s great experience and a great opportunity for him,” said Neilson. “It will open his eyes to the level of player Scotland are producing that play down in England. Some of these guys came through in Scotland and now play at the highest level down there. Hopefully it will make Callum hungrier to come back to Hearts, work even harder and get to that level himself.
“He can come back and do it in training and speak to the other boys here about his experiences with Scotland. I’m sure the first things he’ll get asked when he comes back will be ‘how was it, how was this, how was that’. He’ll be able to talk about the players in the Scotland squad and what guy looked after himself what way and all these things. It’s a learning curve for everyone when guys like that go away on international duty and then come back.”
Neilson acknowledged that Paterson is likely there for experience only, despite him being called up after Stoke’s Phil Bardsley withdrew from the Scotland squad through injury. Steven Whittaker is expected to start at right-back against both Ireland and England and Paterson will fill the role of deputy.
“The way Gordon is doing it seems to be bringing guys in who are there or thereabouts to blood them and give them an opportunity to see what it’s like,” continued Neilson. “Then you can see how they react to the situation. It’s a big step up and it gives the Scotland coaches a chance to see what their mentality is like, what their work rate is like, what their attitude is like.
“Hopefully they’ll see Callum is a good player with a good attitude who works hard. That might give him an opportunity in the future to get back into the squad again.”