Hearts youth academy boosts Scotland squads

Billy Stark. Picture: SNS

Billy Stark. Picture: SNS

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HEARTS’ youth academy has received one of its biggest ever endorsements with the news that 11 Riccarton pupils have been selected in Scotland international squads this month.

Billy Stark’s Scotland Under-21 group for next week’s friendly with England includes six Hearts players, with two more in the Scotland Under-19 squad and three with the Under-16s.

On an encouraging day all round at Tynecastle, it was announced that more than 10,500 season tickets have been sold ahead of the club’s first home match of season 2013/14. Supporters have rallied to back Hearts in their numbers following the onset of administration, which leaves their team adrift at the bottom of the new Scottish Premiership on minus 15 points.

Although survival in the top flight remains the priority, coaches at Riccarton are enthused by the number of young players earning international recognition. Defender Brad McKay and goalkeeper Jack Hamilton are in the Scotland Under-21 squad for the first time. They join team-mates Kevin McHattie, Jason Holt, Jamie Walker and David Smith for the match against England at Bramall Lane next Tuesday evening.

Midfielder Adam King and defender Jordan McGhee were called up by Scotland’s Under-19s for a training camp, while Sean McKirdy, Leon Jones and Greg Page will travel to Russia for a tournament with the Scotland Under-16s.

Hearts Under-20 coach Darren Murray explained the satisfaction for the club’s youth academy at seeing so many players recognised at international level: “I’m delighted for the players, we’ve been building up to this for a number of years and it’s testament to the work that’s been done by all the coaches at Hearts that these boys are getting international recognition.

“With so many players involved in Scotland youth squads, it really is a purple patch for our academy.”

The deadline for season ticket sales passed on Sunday evening with a total of 10,500 sold.

A Tynecastle spokesperson said: “Hearts fans continue to prove that there is no-one

else like them in Scottish football.

“The support they have given the club has been tremendous and everybody is looking forward to seeing Tynecastle packed out this season.

“Now that season-ticket sales have ended, the best way that fans can see Gary Locke’s boys in action and support the club is to purchase match tickets for the upcoming games against Hibs, Aberdeen and Celtic at Tynecastle.