Stanton’s rise to Scotland U-21s thrills Terry Butcher

Sam Stanton. Picture: Toby Williams
Sam Stanton. Picture: Toby Williams
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Terry Butcher today hailed the “incredible rise” of Sam Stanton after the Easter Road kid was called into the Scotland Under-21 squad for the first time.

The 19-year-old, along with team-mate Danny Handling, is in line to face Hungary in next Wednesday’s friendly at Tannadice having earned himself rave reviews in each of his first four starts for Hibs’ first team.

But today Butcher insisted the call from Under-21 boss Billy Stark wasn’t unexpected, claiming there’s still plenty to come from the young midfielder as he begins to fulfil the potential the coaching staff at Easter Road believe he possesses in abundance.

The Hibs boss said: “It’s terrific for Sam. He’s going through a really good spell, playing some lovely football and if he isn’t scoring then he’s setting goals up, as he did on Saturday at Kilmarnock. It’s been an incredible rise for him but nothing we didn’t expect. Sam is an exciting player, he’s got lots of energy, a good touch, he’s a good passer of the ball, has a heart as big as a bucket – he ticks all the boxes.”

While Stanton’s confidence is understandably sky-high at present, Butcher believes the exposure to the international scene will be another important move in his development. He said: “It’s another step into the unknown for him, he’s never been in the Under-21 squad.

“There’s a European Championship qualifying match against the Netherlands coming up in May and such matches give youngsters like Sam the chance to pit themselves against the very best from other countries which can only be good for him.”

While it appears to many that Stanton has “come from nowhere,” it’s two years since he made his debut as a substitute at Ibrox, the early part of his career having been hampered by injury. But since being pitched in against Celtic for his first start – forcing Fraser Forster into a world-class save as the Hoops goalkeeper closed in on Bobby Clark’s shut-out record – the Edinburgh youngster has flourished, the secret being, according to Butcher, he’s now playing in his favoured central midfield role.

And, Butcher insisted, the most exciting thought was that Stanton has so much further to go. He said: “When Maurice Malpas and I came in we knew he was a good player. But he’s not the finished article by any means which is really exciting.

“He has that languid running style, but he can explode. He can ignite the team and that’s not a bad talent to have.”

Handling has already been part of Stark’s squad in the past although he’s yet to win his first cap but, again, Butcher feels the Hibs support have yet to see the best of the 20-year-old. He said: “Danny has had an in and out sequence of matches but there’s no doubt about his talent..”

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Jordan Archer (Tottenham Hotspur), Jonathan Henly (Reading), Christopher Kettings (Blackpool); Defenders: Joseph Chalmers (Celtic), Stuart Findlay (Celtic), Marcus Fraser (Celtic), Jack Grimmer (Fulham), Sean Kelly (St Mirren), Jordan McGhee (Hearts), John Souttar (Dundee United); Midfielders: Stuart Armstrong (Dundee United), Ryan Gauld (Dundee United), John McGinn (St Mirren), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Kenny McLean (St Mirren), Craig Slater (Kilmarnock), Sam Stanton (Hibs); Forwards: Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Danny Handling (Hibs), Stevie May (St Johnstone), Callum Paterson (Hearts).