Callum Paterson, Jack Hamilton and John McGinn are at the forefront of Scotland’s next generation having been called up for their first competitive international match
The Hearts players and their Hibs counterpart join Rangers’ Barrie McKay and Celtic’s Kieran Tierney in Gordon Strachan’s squad for the opening World Cup qualifier in Malta next month.
Scotland are on the cusp of a new era following failure to reach Euro 2016 and the retirement of captain Scott Brown. McGinn may well become the long-term successor to the Celtic man in midfield, but first he and other aspiring youngsters must show they can handle international football.
McGinn, aged 21, and Tierney, 19, earned their only cap so far in March’s 1-0 win over Denmark. Paterson, 21, received his in Scotland’s loss to Italy in May and McKay, also 21, played in the 3-0 defeat by France in June. Goalkeeper Hamilton, 22, remains uncapped.
Strachan is excited by new blood within his squad as he tries to guide Scotland to their first major championship for 20 years. He explained why the newcomers deserve their places.
“I’ve five new ones in there and it’s a long time since we have five new ones at the start of a campaign,” he said. “I’ve watched them in the Under-21s and in training. It’s been me to speak with them, me to pick them and me to watch them playing. They’ve taken that opportunity.”
Whether they can become international mainstays for years to come is firmly in their own hands, according to Strachan. “It’s up to them, I don’t determine their future. It’s up to them. If they play well with their club and do well with us.”
McGinn has made the biggest impression so far, earning the man-of-the-match award against the Danes. He has a similar energy and endeavour to Brown, but Strachan will wait to decide whether the Hibs midfielder is a ready-made replacement.
“I’ve no idea. I don’t look too deeply at that. It’s just players I pick and we get on with it. Scott had one style of playing. I’m not going to take somebody out and say: ‘See in training today, could you play exactly like Scott Brown? Maybe score a few more goals? And be a bit taller?’ You can’t do that. I can’t change them much because I don’t want to, I want to get the best out of them. I might just have to tweak it a wee bit.”