Scotland defender Charlie Mulgrew has advised Hearts’ John Souttar to “play every game like it’s your last” as he prepares for a first full cap.
The experienced Mulgrew pledged to help Souttar settle into the senior squad this week as he aims for a debut against Belgium or Albania.
Vice-captain at Tynecastle Park, the 21-year-old is the latest youthful centre-back called up by national coach Alex McLeish. Celtic’s Jack Hendry and Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna both received their Scotland debuts earlier this year, marshalled by 32-year-old Mulgrew.
The Blackburn Rovers captain is happy to help mentor Souttar during his international initiation and offered some priceless advice for the Hearts player. “Just try to enjoy every minute of it and train like every session is your last,” said Mulgrew.
“Learn from the experience that is around you, there’s no better learning curve than playing in these games and getting a feel for international football yourself. My advice would be train every day like it’s your last, play every game like it’s your last and be willing to learn.”
Scotland play Belgium in a friendly at Hampden Park on Friday before facing Albania there in the inaugural UEFA Nations League tie on Monday. Mulgrew stated he is happy guiding Scotland’s emerging central defenders to help ready them for a future at international level.
“It is a role I enjoy. We don’t know the team yet, or the formation or who will be playing where,” explained Mulgrew. “I don’t do anything different. I continue as I always have done and if I can help anyone along the way, on the pitch or off the pitch, then hopefully I can do that. There are a few experienced boys here and there’s a lot of good players in the squad.
“We’ve got a good bunch of boys here, as we usually have with the Scotland squad. You’d need to ask them how much they lean on me. I hopefully can lead by example with the way that I train and play and take it from there.
“There are good players coming through like John Souttar. I’ve not seen a lot of them but I’ve heard a lot of positive things. McKenna is obviously a top player who has done very well in his Scotland games so far, and Jack Hendry at Celtic has done well in a Scotland jersey as well.
These are young players who need time and patience, but hopefully the future is bright for Scotland. At the end of the day we need to qualify for a major tournament. It’s well overdue.”
McLeish has made many changes to the Scotland squad since replacing Gordon Strachan earlier this year. He recalled Souttar’s Hearts team-mate, Steven Naismith, earlier this week to a group which believes it is embarking on a new dawn.
“There have been a lot of changes in the squad compared to the last campaign and it is a new era,” said Mulgrew. “We want to end with a major tournament and all the focus is towards that. We’ll be doing everything we can to get there.”