Robbie Neilson expects Danny Wilson to be knocking on the door for a Scotland recall if he can maintain his magnificent early-season form.
Hearts’ head coach believes his skipper is in the finest condition of his career and has challenged him to show he is back to his best by leading his team to the Championship title.
Wilson, who won the last of his five international caps three years ago, was expected to be overlooked as Gordon Strachan today named his squad for the opening Euro 2016 qualifier against Germany next month.
However, Neilson feels the 22-year-old is ready to put pressure on those ahead of him in the Scotland pecking order, like Grant Hanley, Russell Martin, Gordon Greer and Christophe Berra.
“Danny’s looking strong and confident and he’s leading the team superbly,” he told the Evening News. “He’s maturing into a leader and this is his opportunity to lead a team to a title. Once you get a reputation as a title-winning captain, it stays with you.
“He’s buying into everything and, physically, he’s as fit as he’s ever been. Mentally, he’s in a good place as well. To be honest, I think he’s playing Scotland-class at the moment. The last few games, he really has looked a player who could play for Scotland. He has to continue to do it, though.”
Neilson believes Wilson is benefiting from the influx of new blood to Hearts this season after a difficult campaign trying to hold together an ultra-young team last time round. “Danny’s benefited from the new players coming in,” explained the head coach. “He’s forming a good partnership with Alim Ozturk, and Morgaro [Gomis] and Prince [Buaben] have come in and given the whole team a bit of security. But there’s also a bit of continuity there because he’s used to playing beside Kevin McHattie and Jordan McGhee.”
Hearts maintained their perfect start to the season and moved two points clear at the top of the Championship. Neilson is satisfied but it is early days and he added: “I’ll be more content when we’ve got a 100 per cent record after ten games.”
Neilson handed a league debut to 17-year-old striker Alistair Roy, a recent recruit from Stirling Albion, late in Saturday’s victory, further swelling an attacking pool that already includes James Keatings, Osman Sow, Gary Oliver, Soufian El Hassnaoui and Dale Carrick.
“Ali’s an out-and-out striker who scores goals and he’s got blistering pace,” he said. “When the game opens up, he’s a real threat in behind. He did well when he came on and he gives another option again up front. We’ve got a lot of different types in attack now.”
Roy will be in contention for another outing when Hearts visit Stenhousemuir in the League Cup tomorrow as Neilson prepares to give his fringe men more game time following last week’s Petrofac Training Cup defeat by Livingston. Osman Sow and Jamie Walker could be involved after being suspended for the trip to Kirkcaldy.
“We’ll rotate it again a little bit,” he said. “The league’s our priority, so there will be changes, although probably not to the same extent as last Wednesday. The League Cup’s more important.”