Hearts goalkeeper Jack Hamilton is poised for a Scotland Under-21 debut against Luxembourg on Monday.
Coach Billy Stark has introduced new blood to his squad and Hamilton will get game time in the final European Championship qualifier in Differdange, along with Reading goalkeeper Jonathan Henly.
Regular keeper Jordan Archer will play in tonight’s qualifier away to Slovakia but he is too old by the time the 2017 European Championship qualifiers begin next year. Hamilton and Henly are the two understudies Stark is keen to nurture for the next campaign, with Scotland not expected to qualify from their current section.
Hamilton has kept goal in Hearts’ last three league matches following injuries to No.1 Neil Alexander and second-choice Scott Gallacher.
The 20-year-old was recalled from a loan spell at Stenhousemuir to deputise and drew praise for his handling of the situation.
“Jack has done exceptionally well,” said Stark. “He went on loan to Stenhousemuir, which I was delighted about. Then he got called back by Hearts and thrown into the Edinburgh derby.
He’s played for us at under-19 level for a couple of campaigns and he’s always shown great potential, not least because of his temperament. It’s no surprise he’s done well in the Hearts first team.
“Jordan Archer is with us but he is going to be too old after this campaign. It’s difficult to throw a young goalkeeper into a game against Slovakia away but, against Luxembourg, we’ll have a look at it. We’ll see how Jack and Jonny Henly fare and it will be interesting.”
Hearts’ other Scotland Under-21 representatives, Sam Nicholson, Jordan McGhee and Billy King, will also be involved in the two matches. Stark acknowledged that chances of qualifying are gone and he is now focused on building a squad for the 2017 finals.
“We have to be realistic. There’s nothing historically to suggest that even two wins in these two games would be enough for us to qualify,” he said.
“We don’t harbour any hopes in that respect so we’ve brought in more younger players. We’ve kept the core of the older ones, although Stuart Armstrong is out injured, but tonight we play a real good team in Slovakia.
They have an excellent chance of qualifying.
“Luxembourg have improved no end as well so it’s two tough games for us. This is a chance for us to get players in early and work with them towards the next campaign.”