John Souttar: Stephen McManus backs defender for future Scotland call-up

John Souttar
John Souttar has established himself in the first team at Hearts

Former Scotland defender Stephen McManus believes John Souttar has the potential to play for his country but should not be rushed into the squad.

The Hearts centre-back, 19, needs more top-level experience, McManus believes, before he is ready to challenge for a senior Scotland call-up.

He is certain, though, that Souttar has the attributes to eventually make the grade at international level.

"He's going to be a tremendous asset for the country," said McManus, 34.

"He's not played in a lot of high-profile games, [but] he's developing very well. It's important with guys like that, that you don't pin all your hopes on them, because it puts pressure on their shoulders when they're so young.

"You need to nurture them. He's at a very good club with good people in charge. He's just got to concentrate on playing week in, week out at Hearts and performing the best he possibly can.

Callum Paterson
Souttar's Hearts team-mate Callum Paterson has picked up two caps

"Unfortunately for John just now, he's not tasting Champions League football, or European football.

"The one thing you know is going to happen with young centre-halves is that they're going to make mistakes. The one thing you need to do is earn the manager's trust, at international and club level, and you can only do that by limiting your mistakes and playing week in, week out."

Motherwell's McManus believes Scotland Under-21 cap Souttar can take "a lot of positives" from fellow Tynecastle defender Callum Paterson's place in Gordon Strachan's senior Scotland side.

"He [Souttar] will think there's no reason he can't be the next one," McManus explained. "Just now, the right thing is to go with the players who are there, the ones with experience. If John Souttar keeps progressing, he'll get in the squad soon enough.

"Of course you want players who are playing week in, week out, but the lads, especially the centre-halves like Russell Martin, Grant Hanley, Gordon Greer, they're experienced enough now, they know how to look after their bodies, they're professional."

Stephen McManus
McManus was capped 26 times for Scotland

Scotland opened their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 5-1 win over Malta on 4 September and the national team's next game is at home to Lithuania next month.

McManus scored when Scotland defeated Lithuania 3-1 at Hampden in 2007 and is confident, having worked with them both, that the management team of Strachan and Mark McGhee can steer Scotland to World Cup qualification.

McGhee is McManus's boss at Well and the defender previously worked with Strachan at Celtic and Middlesbrough.

"If I was with the group just now, I wouldn't want to work with anybody else than those two," McManus added.

"They're both managers, very good on the training ground, and they trust each other, they work well together.

"I believe in the group of players, the squad is settled and there are some very good players, who are starting to hit a bit of form."

Top Stories