BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hearts star Callum Paterson looks set to have his Scotland dream dashed after suffering an injury to his shoulder.
The 21-year-old, who has been a pivotal player for capital club on their impressive return to the top-flight this term, was taken off after landing awkwardly in the Jambos 1-0 win over Kilmarnock on Saturday.
Scans confirmed minor ligament damage in the area and he is expected to be sidelined for between three and four weeks, dealing a blow to Hearts’ pursuit of Aberdeen in the race for second spot in the Premiership.
However, it is also a set-back for Scotland, with Paterson among a clutch of youngsters who were in contention for a call-up when Gordon Strachan names two separate squads for the upcoming friendlies against Czech Republic and Denmark on March 24th and 29th.
Barring a miraculous recovery, it now looks likely that he will need to wait for his bow for the national side.
Paterson, capped 12 times for the under-21 side, has already been in one senior squad after being drafted into the set-up to face the Republic of Ireland and England in November 2014, but is yet to win his maiden cap.
However, Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has been buoyed by the performance of 19-year-old Liam Smith, who was drafted in to deputise for Paterson on Tuesday evening.
Making his first even league start for the Jambos, the highly-rated teenager turned in an assured display in a comfortable 2-0 win over Inverness.
Neilson told Hearts TV: “You know what you are going to get from Smithy every game. It’s just the physicality and fitness you need to be conscious of when stepping up to the first team.
“But on the ball, he is an eight-out-of-ten guy every week, he consistently picks the right passes and you could see that against Inverness.
“We’re pleased that, despite having a key player like Callum [Paterson] coming out, a young kid from the academy can come in and do so well.”