Hearts boss Ian Cathro insists John Souttar can return from injury to become Scotland international



IAN CATHRO reckons John Souttar is destined to be a Scotland star after insisting the Hearts defender has the grit to bounce back from his injury hell and reach the top.

The dearth of quality centre-halves available to Gordon Strachan at international level has again been thrown into sharp relief ahead of Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia.

Souttar, who boasts six caps at under-21 level, was being discussed as a potential answer to those woes following a bright start to the season with the Jambos.

However, the 20-year-old’s progress was cruelly curtailed when he sustained a ruptured Achilles during a 4-0 defeat against Celtic in January, ruling the promising stopper out for the remainder of the campaign.

Nevertheless, Cathro believes Souttar’s time will come.

He said: “If we are talking about John being a talented player and one who could be a centre back for Scotland, then obviously that depends on who is leading the team, what the football is like and what he wants from his centre back.

“But I would expect that [Scotland recognition] to happen in his life, I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be the case.”

Cathro worked with Souttar as a fresh-faced 10-year-old when the youngster joined his Dundee-based private coaching programme. He watched him blossom into a first-team player with Dundee United.

However, he believes the progress in the player – personally and professionally – since making the switch to Hearts in January 2016 has been startling.

Cathro continued: “The period of time he had at Dundee United started very well and a lot of good, positive things happened for him there. By the end of it, it was becoming more difficult for everyone.

“The opportunity and support he got coming to Hearts, I know from speaking to him that it gave him a massive lift. He has done incredibly well to turn himself into a better player, slightly more focused in his mind and spending time with good professionals.

“He really does have a determination to get every bit of his professional life right to try and reach the top. He will be important for this team as it progresses.”