Hearts duo Walker and Paterson on Scotland’s radar

Jamie Walker and Callum Paterson, below, have impressed Scotland coaches
Jamie Walker and Callum Paterson, below, have impressed Scotland coaches
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SCOTLAND coaches are monitoring Hearts players Jamie Walker and Callum Paterson with a view to future call-ups.

Gordon Strachan, Mark McGhee and Stuart McCall have watched both players in action and believe they could soon force their way into the international squad.

Paterson is with the Scotland Under-21s this week preparing for Saturday’s European Championship qualifier in Northern Ireland. Walker is too old to play in the tournament finals in 2017 so wasn’t considered. McCall admitted today that both players are on the radar for the full squad.

“Callum came into the squad last year,” said McCall. “He’s popped up with a couple of goals for Hearts coming in at that back post and the team have been doing well so far. I like the boy Jamie Walker, who plays for them. They’re all coming into consideration.

“At the moment, the manager, rightly so, thinks they’ve got to be at a level or better to come into the squad. Callum, although he’s progressing, is nowhere near our right-backs Steven Whittaker or Alan Hutton yet. That’s how we look at it. We like bringing the odd young player in to have a look at but we won’t do it to give them false hope.”

McCall revealed that Aberdeen players Graeme Shinnie, Kenny McLean and Ryan Jack are also being monitored, along with Rangers captain Lee Wallace.

“Hearts have started well. They’ve got five players in our Under-21s,” he continued. “Aberdeen have got off to a fantastic start as well. I know Graeme Shinnie has been doing well, as have Kenny McLean and Ryan Jack. We’re always aware of players. We have a few individuals we’re keeping an eye on.

“Lee Wallace comes into that category. At the moment, we have Andy Robertson and Craig Forsyth at left-back – both playing at top English Championship clubs with ambitions of going into the Premier League. They’re playing at a good standard. If Lee is playing consistently well, you can’t ignore people like that. He’s started the season well.”

Scotland travel to Tbilisi for a vital qualifier against Georgia on Friday which could go a long way to determining whether they reach next summer’s European Championship in France. Both Scott Brown and Ikechi Anya sat out the first training session yesterday but should be fit to play. Scott will be fine,” said McCall. “He took a whack but he’ll look to train, if not tomorrow then Thursday. Ikechi has an ongoing niggle, nothing major. He’ll train on Thursday. There’s no doubt about any of them – it’s just managing them and they’ll be 100 per cent ready. They certainly are important to us. Anya scored a goal in Germany and he can be a real threat. He did well when he came on against Ireland. Brown has been the catalyst for the improvement in performances. Under Craig [Levein], he was out for a good period of time through injury. He always has an effect on the team regardless of how he’s playing personally. He’s a good captain. Everyone else is fine apart from Christophe Berra and Stuart Armstrong pulling out.”

Scotland sit third in Group D, three points behind leaders Poland, and well placed to secure a place at in the finals. McCall knows improved results during Strachan’s tenure have raised expectation levels.

“I think there’s an expectation from ourselves now. You’ve got to manage expectation and Scotland players haven’t that for a long time. In previous tournaments, we’ve been out of them but there’s an expectation now. Who knows what that will be in a week’s time? It might have changed again. It might be an expectation that we could grab third, it might that we’ve got a chance of being top. You don’t know. These next two games will decide how the last two games are viewed.”