Hearts winger Jamie Walker ‘destined for Scotland call-up’

Jamie Walker was in fine form against Hamilton, netting a sumptuous free-kick. Pic: SNS
Jamie Walker was in fine form against Hamilton, netting a sumptuous free-kick. Pic: SNS
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Jamie Walker’s Scotland call-up is only a matter of time because national coach Gordon Strachan cannot ignore the Hearts winger for much longer, according to his former Riccarton mentor Darren Murray.

Strachan yesterday named his squad for the friendly with Canada at Easter Road later this month and the vital World Cup qualifier against Slovenia at Hampden five days later.

Walker wasn’t included despite being the Ladbrokes Premiership’s top-scoring Scotsman. He has amassed 15 goals in 30 domestic games for Hearts so far this season and had been touted for a maiden Scotland cap.

Murray admitted surprise at seeing his protege overlooked. Oliver Burke, Robert Snodgrass, Matt Ritchie, Matt Phillips, Ryan Fraser and James Forrest were all selected ahead of him in Strachan’s 30-man squad.

However, Murray stressed that the 23-year-old is destined for a Scotland call-up in the near future because he will become irresistible if he maintains his club form.

“He just needs to keep his head down, keep working and keep producing for Hearts. Give him another six months and if he continues to play like he is then I’m sure he’ll be involved,” said Murray.

“To have that scoring record from the wide areas, there aren’t many wingers in Scotland with that type of record. Jamie is a brilliant finisher and he scores all types of goals. He scores inside the box, outside, set-plays, everything. He has this knack of getting a lot of power in his shots with very little backlift.

“He won’t be too concerned about it just now. I’m sure, given time, he’ll get that opportunity to play for the national team. There aren’t many players like him about, especially not in Scotland.

“Jamie is a player who can get supporters off their seats because he excites them with his technical ability. He’s the type of player Scotland needs more of.

“I thought he would have been in the squad. I’m sure he’s close but it was a surprise to me that he wasn’t included. I think it would’ve been beneficial to take Jamie and have a look at him in that training environment. Gordon Strachan has obviously looked at Ryan Fraser at Bournemouth, who is doing really well, and that’s what Jamie is up against.”

A friendly in the player’s native Edinburgh seemed like the perfect opportunity for a gradual introduction to international arena. Walker knows Easter Road well having played there many times for Hearts but must watch the Canada friendly as a spectator.

“That’s the surprise for me. When you’re looking to blood a younger player who hasn’t been about the full international team, this would’ve been the ideal opportunity. Bring him into the squad, see how he does in a midweek friendly,” said Murray.

“Scotland in general are crying out for players with technical ability and good awareness to go and play in the national team. Jamie’s got all of that.

“He has a bit of everything. He isn’t blessed with a great deal of pace but a lot of the speed is in his head. The decisions come quicker to him because he understands the game more. His first yard is in his head because he’s a thinker who uses his brain a lot.

“Jamie has made the step from young player on the periphery of games to somebody that the Hearts team looks to and knows can cause problems. He’s made that progress in the last year or so. A lot of what he does is quite natural.

“I worked with him for a number of years and he’s a player who can excite and he has an understanding of space, opposition and team-mates when he’s on the ball. Some of the performances he’s put in recently have been top-class. He’s only going to go from strength to strength.”