Hearts defender John Souttar admits he is inspired by international team-mate Callum Paterson



Hearts defender John Souttar insists Callum Paterson is an inspiration for all the young players at Tynecastle that are dreaming of starring for Scotland.

Defender Paterson became the first Hearts player since Lee Wallace in 2010 to earn a full competitive cap after playing in last Sunday’s 5-1 World Cup qualifying thrashing of Malta.

While the 21-year-old returned to Hearts on a high earlier this week, it was a different story for Souttar, Sam Nicholson and Liam Smith after Scotland Under-21s’ hopes of reaching Euro 2017 were all but ended following back-to-back defeats to Macedonia and Ukraine.

johnsouttarBut Souttar, who was sent off for denying a goal scoring opportunity against the Ukraine, admits full-back Paterson’s elevation to the full squad has given everyone at Hearts a boost.

He said: “We were all delighted for Callum. He’s worked so hard and the fact that he was picked showed that, if you work hard, it won’t go unnoticed by Scotland.

“He’s had a great start to the season so I was delighted for him.

“Seeing Callum play on Sunday was definitely an inspiration, seeing what could be achieved.

“Everyone in the team will be looking at him playing for Scotland and thinking, ‘maybe we can get there’.

“But we’ve got to build on it. There is no point in just saying it’s brilliant to have one of ours playing for Scotland – you want more of our players in the team.

“If everyone keeps doing well, hopefully there are more who can reach that level.

“When you are growing up, you want to play for your country, especially where I’m from as a boy. In the north-east, Scotland is massive. That’s the big thing, playing for Scotland.

“It was drilled into me from a young age, that it was the ultimate honour. My dad, the whole family, they’re very big on that.

“So I know what it means to them that I’m playing for Scotland. It’s a great honour.”

Souttar insists Hearts is a club that can help him achieve his ambition of playing for his country after admitting that he is already a vastly-improved player from the one that was signed from Dundee Untied by Robbie Neilson in January.

Speaking ahead of today’s visit of Hamilton, Souttar added: “I feel like I’ve developed a lot, learned a lot, since joining Hearts.

“The gaffer has helped massively, the same goes for players like Igor Rossi.

“There is a good mentality in this team.

“I’ve been doing a lot of gym work.

“I’ve put on muscle but I think that comes with age as well, doesn’t it? The older you get, the more physically stronger you tend to be.

“Central defenders don’t really reach their physical peak until 25 or 26. I’m just working hard every day and looking to improve on that.

“If you look at any centre-half at the top, they are all physical beasts, so strong. If that’s your aim, that’s where you want to be – you need to develop.

“If I ever want to be a full international, I would have to work on that.”