ANDY WEBSTER believes returning to Hearts was central to regaining his international place because it allowed him to show Scotland coach Craig Levein that he could play regularly at club level.
The defender today admitted he had to prove he could perform consistently following injury problems at Rangers, which he did after rejoining the Tynecastle club in January 2010. It took 18 months for Levein to recall Webster but he was eventually called up for Scotland’s friendly with the USA at the end of last season. His imperious defensive displays continued this season, making him a key member of the squad for the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. Webster is expected to start both of Scotland’s upcoming qualifiers against Wales and Belgium and is delighted to be involved at international level again.
“Regular first-team football is what it’s all about. I went through a period of not playing so I then had to go through a period of playing, which I’ve now done. You always hope your performances at club level take you on to the international stage,” he said.
“In that situation when you’re injured, you always feel it (international return) is a long way off. There’s always ambition. You want to get back playing football and enjoying it, then you hope one thing leads to another and you do get back involved. That’s the situation I’m in at the minute and it’s not something I take for granted. It’s something I relish.”
Webster played regularly on loan at Dundee United during season 2009/10, captaining them to a Scottish Cup final victory, but was again marginalised upon his return to Rangers. He admitted the injuries which destroyed his Ibrox career drove him to prove himself all over again and regain his Scotland place. “When you’re injured there isn’t much you can do. It’s not like you’re playing every week and not being selected for the national team so then you sometimes have to just switch off from it all. You would end up banging your head against a brick wall because it is frustrating. When you’ve seen one side of it and then you’re on the other side wanting to get back involved, as difficult as it is, you try to switch off as much as you can. Then you use it as a motivational tool to get back to where you want to be.
“I’m delighted to be back involved with the squad and contributing to some extent. This is what you want as a footballer, to play at the highest level and test yourself against the best, either at club or international level. When you get a bit older you tend to enjoy these things a bit more and certainly appreciate the position you’re in.”
Meanwhile, Webster’s former Hearts colleague Rudi Skacel has returned to Riccarton to make use of training facilities, igniting hope amongst supporters that he may re-sign for the club.
A Tynecastle spokesperson explained: “As with Craig Gordon in the summer, when we heard that Rudi was back home in Edinburgh and looking for a place to train, we were only too happy to offer the use of the academy to him.
“He has been keeping in shape in Prague and wanted to keep things ticking over during his time in Edinburgh.”
As a member of the victorious 2012 William Hill Scottish Cup team, Skacel has agreed to participate in the popular Scottish Cup Roadshow currently being run by Big Hearts throughout the schools in the Lothians region, and other commercial activities during his stay in the Capital.