John Souttar happy returning to Hampden after Hearts’ cup final display
John Souttar insists he has no issues returning to the scene of Hearts’ Scottish Cup final defeat because his club’s atmosphere is more positive after the Hampden Park performance.
The defender is in the Scotland squad to face Cyprus at the National Stadium just two weeks after Hearts’ 2-1 loss there against Celtic.
An encouraging display brightened the mood around Riccarton and Souttar joined Steve Clarke’s first international squad feeling confident.
“It was a really tough one to take,” he admitted. “We played so well for long periods of the game but for one reason or another it wasn’t meant to be on the day. I haven’t really thought about going back. It’s two different teams.
“If you get the chance to play at Hampden, it’s a brilliant honour. I thought the whole team did well in the final. We stuck to the gameplan. If things were different, maybe if we hadn’t given the penalty away so early, it’s ifs and buts. It just wasn’t meant to be on the day.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs during the season but the way we played in the final was positive. Not many people gave us a chance and the way we set up and pressed Celtic brought a lot of positivity back to the club.”
Clarke took his first training session in charge of Scotland at Oriam yesterday morning ahead of European Championship qualifiers against Cyprus and Belgium. Souttar hopes to see some of the rigid defending he instilled at former club Kilmarnock in evidence at international level.
“Definitely. I’ll try to learn as much as I can from him,” said the 22-year-old. “Killie were well-drilled and hard to break down, as we found at Hearts when we played them. It will be good for me to learn from him and how he wants to play. I played against Killie last year and they were a good side.”
Indeed, Clarke has already begun working on some defensive shape with the squad. “It was a tough session. We did some shape work. We were getting going again. A few boys have had some time off so it was a good session,” added Souttar.
Scotland captain Andy Robertson will join the squad later this week after winning the Champions League with Liverpool on Saturday night. Souttar, a former team-mate from their Dundee United days, sent him a congratulations message.
“I’m sure Andy’s phone will be pretty busy. It’s an incredible achievement, obviously, to win the Champions League, considering where he’s come from. We’re running out of words to describe it. He deserves everything he’s got.
“I watched the final at Jack Hamilton’s wedding. I had to watch it on a wee phone and it was still incredible. Jack didn’t have a screen up at his wedding so a few of us were crowding around. A few of the boys were there, it was in Edinburgh.
“It’s just sort of to be expected from Andy now, isn’t it? He was in the Champions League final last year, so it hardly comes out of the blue. He’s worked so hard, right back to his days at United. He deserves every reward he gets.
“You just have to enjoy watching him play. He’s still the same guy he was, exactly the same. That’s probably why he’s done so well.”