Callum Paterson’s goal threat, athleticism and competitive edge are attributes for a long international career, according to former Scotland Under-21 coach Billy Stark.
The Hearts defender made his senior Scotland debut on Sunday night against Italy, playing 45 minutes of the friendly in Malta. Stark, who coached him at youth level, believes continued hard work and development could see Paterson cement his place at international level.
He was given his favoured right-back role against the Italians and did not look out of place. A slight back injury hindered him and he was replaced at half-time. It remains to be seen if he plays against France this weekend, but Stark expects to see more of Paterson in a dark blue shirt over the coming months.
“I always thought he would get the opportunity with Scotland given how he was developing,” said Stark, now assistant manager at Albion Rovers. “Gordon Strachan [national coach] has always said players have to embrace the international scene and show they can handle it. I think that was his thinking with these two games, to try and get a look at people like Callum.
“Callum has a lovely athletic build, good height and everything. If he can just show he has the ability, poise and composure at full international level then he’ll be fine. It is a different type of game and the pressure is as great as it’s going to be.
“We had him with Scotland Under-19s when broke into the Hearts team. I used to go and watch Hearts Under-19s at Riccarton on a Saturday morning. Callum was playing right-back, centre-back, wide right and centre forward. The biggest thing about him was his athleticism and his attitude. He was keen to win every game, put it that way. These are good attributes to have.
“I remember he scored an overhead kick for Scotland Under-21s against Georgia. At the time, he was still being shifted about in different positions. We had a chat with him and we felt the place he would make his own would be right-back. You don’t want to curb his athleticism at centre-back.
“He certainly had things to improve on in terms of his use of the ball and things like that. I’ve watched him develop and improve. He was always going to have a goal threat no matter where he played. He gets six to ten goals for Hearts from right-back.
“That’s a great thing for managers and coaches to have. You look at players who carry a goal threat for you and Callum certainly had that. It’s a good string to his bow.”
Stark is glad seeing Paterson settled at right-back for Hearts after being used in different positions during his teens. “The leap he has to attack the ball in the air is phenomenal. With that athleticism and drive to compete, we felt right-back would be his position. Nowadays, full-backs have to have very good control and technical ability. That’s the side Callum has had to work on and he’s improved on that. Hopefully, he can keep that going and become a regular with Scotland.”