Trio of Hearts stars in Steve Clarke's thoughts as Scotland boss explains Stephen Kingsley decision

Steve Clarke has revealed prior experience was the reason Declan Gallagher was preferred to Hearts ace Stephen Kingsley for a Scotland call up.

The Scotland boss has also insisted he’s keeping a close eye on the form of Gorgie Road favourites Barrie McKay and Lawrence Shankland.

“He’s done great has Stephen,” ahead of Saturday’s Nations League match with Ireland. “I just felt that with the experience Declan has, he was the one I thought of. I also saw him play at the weekend and he did very, very well against Celtic. Declan with his experience just shaded Stephen.

“But Stephen Kingsley, Barrie McKay, Lawrence Shankland, I’m watching them all the time. I know they are there."

Hearts defender Stephen Kingsley was close to earning a place in the Scotland squad. Picture: SNS

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Tynecastle supporters were left bemused on Thursday evening after two defenders were included in the squad following a number of injury absences and Kingsley wasn’t one of them.

Instead, Gallagher was given a recall while Josh Doig was included for the first time following his move from Hibs to Italian club Hellas Verona in the summer.

Kingsley was a stand-out in the cinch Premiership last term playing as a left-sided centre-back as Hearts finished third in the table, while Gallagher struggled for an Aberdeen side who landed in the bottom half.

The 31-year-old has since moved to St Mirren where he’s recaptured the prior form which initially earned him Clarke’s trust. A former Livingston team-mate of Craig Halkett, Gallagher has nine caps (all under Clarke) and was a hero the night Scotland defeated Serbia to qualify for Euro 2020.

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“I spoke way back at the beginning about he number of caps we had. I felt we weren’t experienced enough as a group,” said Clarke, reflected on his beginnings as national team coach.

“We had to learn, we had to keep picking similar squads and similar players to try to push the number of caps because the more you play at this level, the better it gets.

“It’s one of the reasons I brought in Declan Gallagher, because he’s had the experience of playing at this level and going away to difficult places like Serbia for example in the play-off final.

“So he understands that if we have to go away to Ukraine the importance of the game.”

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