Scotland can't ignore Stephen Kingsley after another strong Hearts display and goal against Hibs

If Scotland have a more suitable deputy for Kieran Tierney than Stephen Kingsley, he must be quite the talent.

Monday, 11th April 2022, 7:00 am

This newspaper stated back in November that the Hearts defender had the closest attributes to Tierney. Nothing since has proven otherwise. Now that the Arsenal full-back is out injured and could miss June’s World Cup play-off and Nations League games, Kingsley’s call-up will surely come.

He was exemplary again in Saturday’s Edinburgh derby, scoring Hearts’ second goal in a 3-1 win which secured third place in the Premiership and guaranteed European football.

Kingsley defends and attacks, can overlap or underlap a wing-back in Scotland’s three-man defensive system, and is both quick and assured in possession. He isn’t quite of Tierney’s quality or he wouldn’t be at Tynecastle Park, but he remains the nearest thing.

Stephen Kingsley celebrates after scoring Hearts' second goal against Hibs on Saturday.

Scott McKenna, Liam Cooper and Aaron Hickey are other candidates for the left side of Steve Clarke’s back three. However, the above skills combined mean Kingsley shouldn’t be ignored.

“It’s something I’ve not focused on too much,” said the player. “I just need to focus on doing well with Hearts. If that leads to a call-up then we’ll take it from there. I’ve kept that mentality all season. I’ll focus on here so whatever happens outwith here happens and I feel I’ve done quite well this season, so I’m going to stick with that.”

Manager Robbie Neilson stated on Saturday that Kingsley and Barrie McKay should both “be round about” the Scotland squad for June. Craig Halkett was called up last month and Craig Gordon is the established international goalkeeper.

“Halkett’s call-up is absolutely deserved,” said Kingsley. “Boys have deserved their call-ups and hopefully there’s more to come, but all anyone can do is to just keep focusing on the next game. If that results in a call-up, then brilliant.”

Clearly Kingsley won’t be distracted by hype. Hearts fans may not be so strict. Saturday’s win saw their team recover from 1-0 down to Drey Wright’s opening goal, with Andy Halliday scoring two goals either side of Kingsley’s.

Promoted from the Championship last summer, Hearts are now back in Europe for the first time since 2016. Their next fixture is a Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibs this Saturday “We didn’t want to come up and consolidate Premiership football,” said Kingsley.

“We felt we had a team here that could go and achieve special things and, thankfully, for the most part we’ve managed to do that this season. But it’s not finished yet. This is a massive week for us. Saturday was just the first part of it, so next week it goes again and we can try finish this season off really strong.”

So how did his first Edinburgh derby goal feel? “Yeah, it’s brilliant. It’s something I’ve not done, I’ve played in a couple of them now, but I’m just really happy to get the win. If I could score next week that would be even better, but as long as we win it doesn’t really bother me.”

Hearts (3-4-2-1): Gordon; Sibbick, Halkett, Kingsley; Atkinson (Moore 83), Haring, Halliday (McEneff 67), Cochrane; Boyce, McKay (Ginnelly 88); Simms (Mackay-Steven 88).

Hibs (3-4-2-1): Macey; Bushiri, Hanlon, Doig (Scott 60); Cadden, Doyle-Hayes (Henderson 70), Newell, Clarke; Wright (Campbell 37), Mueller; Melkersen (Jasper 60).

Referee: Nick Walsh.

Attendance: 19,041.

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