Scotland call-up for Hearts defender Stephen Kingsley just makes sense

Among a long list of imperious Hearts performers against Dundee United, Stephen Kingsley’s timing was perfect.

By Barry Anderson
Monday, 8th November 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Monday, 8th November 2021, 8:20 am
Stephen Kingsley celebrates his goal on Saturday with Taylor Moore.
Stephen Kingsley celebrates his goal on Saturday with Taylor Moore.

Scotland assistant coach John Carver watched from Tynecastle’s main stand as the defender delivered his strongest display of the season. Scoring a header in a thumping 5-2 win topped off a day when a long list of Hearts players peaked.

Kingsley, Josh Ginnelly, Ben Woodburn, Cammy Devlin, Taylor Moore, John Souttar, Craig Halkett and Alex Cochrane all reached impressive heights. Woodburn scored twice, Cochrane and Kingsley once, with substitute Aaron McEneff converting a classy late fifth.

Carver was watching Souttar as a potential replacement for the injured Grant Hanley ahead of Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Denmark. He can’t fail to have noted Kingsley’s prowess, too.

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John Souttar is in fine form for Hearts.

With Kieran Tierney nursing an ankle injury, national coach Steve Clarke may need a deputy for the Arsenal defender: Someone who plays on the left of a back three, carries and distributes the ball from defence whilst overlapping and underlapping a wing-back. Exactly what Kingsley has done all season at Tynecastle.

Scotland often toil without Tierney because there is no like-for-like replacement. Left-footers Liam Cooper and Scott McKenna stepped in previously but are different types who don't burst forward. There is an argument that Kingsley’s attributes are closest to Tierney’s.

Consistent performances for Hearts can only enhance the 27-year-old’s chances of adding to his solitary Scotland cap. If Carver’s eyes were focused on Souttar at the weekend, they would surely have diverted to Kingsley many times.

Hearts’ prosperity back in the Premiership helps players gain international recognition. Goalkeeper Craig Gordon was restored as Scotland No.1 this year, Devlin is being watched by Australia and Woodburn returned to the Wales squad.

England are unlikely to call on Ginnelly of course, but against United he solved a conundrum at centre-forward with Hearts’ top goalscorer Liam Boyce still injured. When it clicks like Saturday, this Tynecastle team is an overwhelming force for most opponents.

Ginnelly urged them to maintain form after ending a run of four games without victory. “If you see the players that we’ve got in there – everybody sees us once or twice a week – if you see it every day you’d understand. We’ve got so much in the changing room,” he said.

“Our main striker is actually injured so other people had to go into other slots and we still beat a good side. It’s a massive win. We’re Hearts, if we draw with someone it’s a bad thing. Apart from Rangers and Celtic we should be beating teams but it’s not that simple.

“We all sat down and spoke about turning draws into wins. I guarantee there’ll be days in the season when we don’t play our best, like the Aberdeen game.

“People are all saying ‘Hearts are falling apart’ but that’s not the case. There’s going to be disappointing days. Even Rangers and Celtic have their bad days. Celtic drew with Livingston last weekend so their fans will be raging, but it’s just the way the game goes. You can’t win every game, it’s impossible.”

Hearts (3-4-3): Gordon; Souttar, Halkett, Kingsley; Moore, Baningime, Devlin, Cochrane; McKay (Mackay-Steven 67), Ginnelly (Gnanduillet 78), Woodburn (McEneff 82).

Dundee Utd (4-3-3): Siegrist; Freeman, Edwards, Mulgrew (Smith 46), McMann; Glass (Biamou 62), Harkes, Fuchs; Pawlett, Clark, Niskanen.

Referee: John Beaton.

Attendance: 18,129.

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