ROBBIE NEILSON has backed Craig Halkett to force his way into Steve Clarke’s Scotland set-up.
The Hearts defender has been in impressive form over pre-season and in the Jambos’ Betfred Cup ties so far, scoring the crucial winner in Saturday’s narrow 1-0 victory over Cowdenbeath.
The former Rangers youngster, capped for Scotland at under-19 level, was tipped for a call-up during a successful spell captaining Livingston.
And, with the likes of Ryan Porteous and Andrew Considine in the current squad, Neilson is convinced the 25-year-old can force his way into the reckoning.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday night’s cup clash with Raith Rovers, the Hearts manager said: “If you’re asking me, Craig can definitely step up for Scotland.
“I’ve been really, really impressed with him recently. I saw him a wee bit at Livi then I didn’t see a lot of him whilst I was at Dundee United in a different league, then I came in here.
“Defensively, he reads the game very well. He’s very, very powerful but he’s also quick – surprisingly quick for the size of him.
“Obviously the other side of it is he’s a massive threat in the opposition box, as you can see from the goals he’s scored.
“I’d love him to get in it. There’s a lot of good players ahead of him as well, so he just needs to continue working.
“But with Scotland playing three at the back, it might give him a wee bit more of a chance to get in because they need more options there.”
Neilson has also heaped praise on his opposite number at Raith, John McGlynn, who is recovering from an operation and is set to miss a return to Tynecastle, where he was a youth coach and then manager.
Neilson said: “I know John very, very well. I’ve spoken to him over the years numerous times and still keep in contact with him, so I wish him all the best.
“I’m not sure he’s going to be in the dugout but knowing John he’ll be phoning the touchline, that’s for sure.
“I like him as a coach, he’s very thorough, probably the most thorough I’ve ever worked with, and knows how to set up a team.
“He developed a lot of good players coming through here, boys who went on to have really good careers and I was pleased when he came back into management again.
“He was at Celtic scouting and I know he really enjoyed that, but John’s forte is on the training field, doing analysis, working with teams.”