BY IAIN COLLIN –[email protected]_sport
SAM Nicholson has watched Hearts team-mate Callum Paterson go from European rookie to international call-up – and admits he would love to follow in his footsteps.
The Tynecastle side will find out on Monday who they will play in their Europa League first-round qualifier, with the first-leg less than a fortnight away on June 30.
It is the first time the club will have competed in continental competition since they pushed English giants Liverpool all the way over two legs in the tournament four years ago.
On that occasion, and the year before when the Jambos faced Spurs, Nicholson, now 21, was just a youth player, whilst Paterson had just made his top-team breakthrough as a promising 17-year-old.
The pair are club team-mates but Paterson’s early exposure to the likes of Jamie Carragher, Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez has seen him go on to win his first cap for Scotland in the recent friendly against Italy.
And Nicholson is hopeful he can also now benefit from the European football that helped kick-start Paterson’s fledgling career.
He said: “Europe is a massive thing for us. The last time we were in Europe I was still in the under-20s team, when we played against Liverpool and Spurs.
“I was at the games and when you’re a young guy, that’s the level you want to be playing at, and now we’re getting the chance to do it.
“It was good to see the standards of what we were up against.
“Obviously Callum Paterson got the chance to actually play in the Liverpool games, he’s already got that experience of Europe behind him, so he’ll be looking forward to another taste of it as well.
“His call-up for Scotland definitely motivates others to try and follow him.
“He has had three or four good seasons and he seemed to do well in the 45 minutes he played, against world-class players.
“That’s what everyone wants to emulate. Him doing that is brilliant and everyone wants to do that.
“It’s good for us to see that players from Hearts can get in there and it’s good for the club. They are pushing players into the Scotland team and it’s something we all want to do.”