CRAIG LEVEIN has revealed that he will have no hesitation in restoring Andy Webster to the Scotland set-up if the Hearts defender can prove he is over the injury troubles which have afflicted him in recent seasons.
The national team manager took Webster from Arbroath to Hearts as a youngster and then had him on loan at Dundee United two seasons ago. Such is his admiration for the Tynecastle defender that he started with him in his first game in charge of Scotland 19 months ago.
However, since that Hampden meeting with the Czech Republic, Webster, who has suffered a variety of niggling injuries in the intervening period, hasn’t featured for the national team. Christophe Berra and Gary Caldwell have since established themselves as Scotland’s first choice pairing, but, with five of Webster’s nine appearances for Hearts this season bringing clean sheets, there is evidence that the centre-back is getting close to the level he showed in his loan spell under Levein at Tannadice two years ago.
Speaking exclusively to the Evening News, Levein challenged Webster to string together a run of games and make it impossible for him to leave him out. “Andy’s very much on my radar – I’m probably his biggest fan,” said the Scotland boss.
“I’ve nothing but the highest praise for how he did in any of my teams. My issue with Andy is the same issue he’s got with himself in the sense that he needs to get back playing week in, week out and get himself battle-hardened and ready to play, first and foremost on a regular basis for Hearts, and then, after that, I’ll look at him for the national team. I believe he’s an international-class centre-back. He’s been capped over 20 times for Scotland, so his ability’s not in question. He’s at a good age for international football, so I’m just desperate for him to prove that he’s battle-hardened and ready for international football. The games I’ve seen him play for Hearts, he’s done very well. It’s not about form or consistency with Andy, it’s just about whether he can play regularly.”
Levein admits he’s eager to see Webster play a sequence of weekend-midweek fixtures, so he knows he’s up to the rigours of international double-headers.
“I’d love to see him play two games a week, on a Saturday then a midweek just so he can prove he’s in a position to play regularly,” he said. “That’s one of the big things about international football, so many of them are double headers, so you need to be able to play Saturday-Tuesday or whatever it may be. If he can get a good run of games, where he doesn’t miss out through injury, he’ll be very much in my plans.”