Hearts defender John Souttar insists he is not disappointed over his Scotland snub – because he is adamant his time will come.
Despite being tipped to earn promotion from the Under-21 squad following an impressive season for the Gorgie outfit, Souttar was overlooked by national team manager Alex McLeish for the friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary.
McLeish handed a maiden call up to Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna and then enlisted Celtic’s Jack Hendry after Rangers centre-half Russell Martin and Celtic full back Kieran Tierney withdrew through injury.
He said: “I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed, I would say it’s probably the closest I’ve been in my career probably.
“I’ve been touted before at times when I knew I was nowhere near ready and that was probably due to the lack of centre backs playing in the SPL, youngsters anyway.
“But now there is a lot more.
“I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed, I’m still going away with the under-21s but I’d say its the closest I’ve felt in my career – so it can only be a good thing that I feel I’m getting closer myself because I know one day it will come and when it comes I’ll be ready.”
Hearts manager Craig Levein has described Souttar as the best central defender in Scotland and as the ‘complete player’.
And the 21-year-old believes playing alongside uncompromising defensive partner Christophe Berra has been hugely beneficial.
Speaking to BBC ALBA, he added: “When Christophe came in, he was obviously good at things that maybe did not come as natural to me – in the air, your aggression, which I feel has come on a lot this year, and that’s probably just from playing next to him.
“He is one of the best in the league at attacking balls and that sort of stuff.
“You play next to someone like that for the whole season, you are only going to get better at it.
“Everyday I look to get better. I feel like I’m getting better all the time and my game is improving.
“That’s down to a lot of factors, in training working on specific things and playing next to experienced pros.”
Souttar made his competitive debut at Dundee United at just 16 years old and earned praise for his composure on the ball, but concedes he struggled to compete with battle-hardened strikers.
The Aberdeen-born player, however, who scored his first Hearts goal in Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Partick Thistle, insists all that has changed.
He added: “When I was younger there were a lot of times I didn’t feel comfortable during games due to physique and things like that, you don’t feel comfortable going up against strikers.
“It was tough when your 16, 17 and going up against men when you were challenging for a header or going in tight because you’re body has not developed.
“But now I feel I’m in a place where I feel comfortable going up against most strikers and long may that continue.”