GARY LOCKE believes Ian Black is currently playing well enough for Hearts to be considered for a maiden Scotland call-up.
The Tynecastle midfielder’s reputation as a hothead wasn’t helped by red cards against Motherwell and Kilmarnock back in August and October respectively.
However, since then, Black has stayed out of trouble and has emerged as the fulcrum of the Hearts team with a string of dominant displays in big matches.
Locke, the Hearts first-team coach, believes it is only a matter of time before Scotland manager Craig Levein feels compelled to hand the 27-year-old international recognition.
“I don’t like to single people out, but Blacky’s performances over the past couple of months have been fantastic,” said Locke. “I’m not trying to tell Craig Levein who to pick, but Blacky must be someone he must be thinking about selecting in the not too distant future. The pass he played for Craig Beattie against Hibs, there are not a lot of players who could have seen that pass.”
Locke has always been an admirer of Black and is thrilled to see him make headlines for his talent rather than his temperament. “I think sometimes he gets a lot of unfair criticism,” said the coach. “He is a fiery character – there’s no doubt about that – but if you take that out of his game he wouldn’t be the same player.
“I played against him and I always knew he was a good player. He’s always been a good footballer, it’s just been a case of trying to keep him on the pitch at times. I was probably a bit similar myself when I was younger, but when you get older and more experienced, you’re able to bite your tongue more.
“Ian seems to be doing that now. He’s concentrating on his football and is looking like a top player, so hopefully he can continue that till the end of the season.”