Hearts assistant manager Austin MacPhee hails influence of experienced pair in John Souttar’s Scotland call up

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Hearts assistant manager Austin MacPhee insists John Souttar’s maiden Scotland call-up has been a team effort after hailing the influence of Christophe Berra and Aaron Hughes.

The 21-year-old has finally been selected in Alex McLeish’s squad for Friday’s friendly against Belgium and the opening UEFA Nations League clash with Albania three days later.

Souttar’s inclusion comes after Hearts manager Craig Levein claimed he was eligible to play for Australia through his granny.

Scotland Under-21 cap Souttar has impressed in Hearts’ flawless start to the campaign and MacPhee reckons being surrounded by role models has aided his development.

MacPhee said: “Right now John is captain of the team that is top of the league, and again the role of the senior players in John’s development can’t be understated, Aaron Hughes and Christophe Berra in particular.

“I know that when Craig first broke into the Hearts team at the age of 18, 19 having come from Cowdenbeath, he played with Sandy Jardine.

“And he felt the impact of playing alongside such an experienced player developed him as much as any coach, because in that moment when you make a mistake or you’re about to make any decision – he corrects you based on 30-odd years of experience.

“And he has that mindset and some of the players we bring to the club are for that reason, Steven MacLean for example, at the top end of the pitch, and the centre backs we have here as well.

“John makes his own path but he has been helped by these guys and he stays close to them.”

Souttar has joined the growing list of current club team-mates who have earned international calls by performing for the Tynecastle outfit.

Midfielder Arnaud Djoum is an established member of the Cameroon team, while the likes of Hughes, Michael Smith and Kyle Lafferty, who is now at Rangers, all earned Northern Ireland call-ups while Hearts.

Summer recruit Ben Garuccio has also been included by Australia for a training camp.

And MacPhee, who is also part of the Northern Ireland coaching team, insists the success of the Hearts players being recognised by their respective countries is a sign that the club is in good health.

He said: “That’s the objective, you hope that Hearts is a big enough club that the national team staff look at it and if you’re playing regularly for Hearts and playing well, you’re at the level to play international football.

“A lot of the players have shown that; Arnaud Djoum went and won the African Nations Cup with Cameroon on the back of Hearts, a lot of the boys who qualified for the Euros with Northern Ireland came to Hearts, and I think the Premiership is just getting stronger and stronger.”

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