A Scotland call-up for Hearts winger Jamie Walker is now inevitable, according to the club’s head coach Ian Cathro.
He stated today that Walker is the finest wide player in the country and insisted he wouldn’t swap him for Celtic’s James Forrest, Rangers’ Barrie McKay or Jonny Hayes of Aberdeen.
Scotland face Canada in a friendly at Easter Road next month before a must-win World Cup qualifier against Slovenia at Hampden Park four days later.
Walker is pressing for inclusion in Gordon Strachan’s senior squad for the first time after 14 goals in 24 domestic games for Hearts this season.
He scored twice in Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Rangers at Tynecastle and Cathro believes the 23-year-old will earn his first cap soon.
“Jamie will play for Scotland, there’s no doubt about that. It will just be when they put him in. That will happen. Nature will take care of that,” said Cathro.
“I see him every day. I see talent. It maybe depends on how well the Scotland team goes, maybe the team has to become more solid or have the ball a bit more. It might come down to the opinion of who is in charge and all those things, but eventually you can’t stop that level of talent.
“I knew of him before I came here but I’m still getting to know him. He’s a talent. He feels the game, he understands it. He just knows. He feels when somebody is coming in or this space opens or closes. He just feels football.”
Asked if Walker could be called up by Scotland next month, Cathro replied: “I’m not involved in it. The only thing I could say is that it will happen. When it happens is for other people to shape. I don’t think there’s a player with Jamie’s talent who won’t play for Scotland. His goals are a factor. There’s talent and there’s talent being productive. When talent is productive, nobody is going to say no to that.”
The head coach rates Walker higher than any of the Ladbrokes Premiership’s top wingers, including Forrest, McKay and Hayes. “Jamie is the only one I want out of them. Fortunately he’s here. I wouldn’t swap him for any of them,” he added, adding that Walker will move on to a bigger club in time.
“I’m sure that will also happen at a point but I think he’s going to improve quite a bit with me. There are no flashing red lights on that.”
Hearts face Motherwell at lunchtime today seeking to build on Wednesday night’s emphatic victory. They must continue without midfielder Arnaud Djoum, though. He remains in Gabon after helping Cameroon reach the African Cup of Nations final.
“It’s great but I miss him,” laughed Cathro. “I’m really pleased for him. We’ve shared a couple of texts messages and we’ll all be supporting him. We’ll have him back in the middle of next week and hopefully he’s a winner.”
Revealing he is suffering with a chest infection, Cathro stressed he is delighted with the options available to him after signing nine new players in January. “Get rid of the chest infection and give me a headache over good players,” he smiled. “We want options, we want competition. We’ve all got to fight it out.
“Part of that involves me stepping up, pushing everybody and making the right decisions. Sometimes I’ll make the wrong ones and we’ll get on with that as well. We want to push, fight, improve and we need options, good players, competition and stress. You need more than 11 players.”
He also dismissed all talk of next week’s Scottish Cup derby with Hibs to focus on Motherwell. “I don’t consider Motherwell a game before any other game. Motherwell is the most important game of our lives because it’s the next game we play,” he said. “The enjoyment of the derby and people looking forward to it, I understand and appreciate that and I respect it. That game means an awful lot to the fans but I’m pretty sure they want us to beat Motherwell too.”