Hearts hero John Souttar completes his comeback story with magical moment for Scotland

Scotland’s final World Cup qualifier may have been a personal milestone for Craig Gordon as Scotland’s number one became Hearts’ most capped player, but it would also prove to be a truly special night for one of his Tynecastle team-mates.

By Craig Fowler
Monday, 15th November 2021, 10:10 pm
Updated Monday, 15th November 2021, 11:39 pm
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 15: Scotland’s John Souttar celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 during a FIFA World Cup Qualifier between Scotland and Denmark at Hampden Park, on November 15, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 15: Scotland’s John Souttar celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 during a FIFA World Cup Qualifier between Scotland and Denmark at Hampden Park, on November 15, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

John Souttar was in the prime spot to perfectly plant a header beyond Danish keeper Kasper Schmeichel on his return to the international stage and give Steve Clarke’s men the lead in a 2-0 victory which guaranteed a home match at Hampden Park against an unseeded team in March.

After watching his finish hit the back of the net, the Hearts star sprinted off toward the corner flag, a huge smile on his face before leaping into the air and sliding on his backside with his arms outstretched toward the thousands of Tartan Army supporters he had just sent into ecstasy.

It was a moment which melted away the frustration and pain, both emotionally and physically, suffered by the defender since his last appearance in a Scotland jersey over three years ago.

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“I’ve went through a lot and I was just looking forward to it, but I couldn’t have expected anything like this. All the rehab, everything I’ve went through, it just makes it all worth it,” Souttar told Sky Sports as Hampden partied around him following the full-time whistle.

He became the first Hearts player to score for Scotland since Steven Naismith, now a coach with the club, netted against Kazakhstan in 2019. There was another Gorgie connection with Souttar revealing the goal was a training-ground routine worked to perfection. The set-piece expert for the national side is, of course, ex-Tynecastle assistant Austin McPhee.

"We worked on that corner during the week. Thankfully we scored from it. It was just a blur for me. I’m just delighted,” Souttar said.

A late call-up for the recent international double-header, he was handed a place in the starting XI after Jack Hendry joined Scott McTominay in being forced out through injury. It was his first under Clarke, with his last cap coming in October 2018 as Alex McLeish’s side dismally lost 2-1 in Israel.

John Souttar celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 to Scotland in the final World Cup qualifier against Denmark. Picture: SNS

Souttar was sent off in that Nations League encounter. Injury would soon be added to insult when it was revealed he had suffered a hip problem in the contest which would keep him out of action for the next three months.

When he returned Hearts were a shadow of the table-topping side they had been when he first hit the treatment table and, as a result, Souttar found himself way down the depth chart. Therein followed the worst kind of luck any professional athlete could expect to receive as he ruptured his Achilles twice and missed more than 13 months of action.

To see him battle back from all that and get his reward last night was truly heart-warming and, even though his headline-grabbing goal – and performance, he was rock solid defensively – may mean it’s going to be increasingly difficult for Hearts to tie him down to an extended contract, every Jambo would have been beaming with pride.

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