Aaron Hickey: Bologna left-back given first Scotland Under-21 call-up

By Clive LindsayBBC Sport Scotland
Lazio's Joaquin Correa and Bologna's Aaron Hickey
Aaron Hickey (right) has made four starts for Bologna in the Italian top flight

Bologna left-back Aaron Hickey has been called up to the Scotland Under-21 squad for the first time for the games against Croatia and Greece.

The 18-year-old has previously only played for Scotland at under-17 level despite breaking into Hearts' first team in May 2019.

But his selection for Scot Gemmill's squad comes after a summer transfer to Italy and four starts in Serie A.

"It's really exciting," head coach Gemmill said.

"Everybody took notice of the transfer and at that point it is up to the player to go and make an impact and he's certainly done that. I'm really looking forward to getting him in with the group."

Gemmill's second-placed side are one point behind Croatia, who they face at Tynecastle on 12 November in European Championship qualifying, before travelling to face Greece five days later.

During the last round of fixtures, Gemmill lost goalkeeper Robby McCrorie and centre-back Ryan Porteous after they were promoted to the senior squad.

He is prepared for a similar scenario should Steve Clarke's squad face withdrawals before the Euro 2020 play-off against Serbia and Nations League games with Slovakia and Israel.

Asked if Hickey is another capable of stepping up, Gemmill replied: "It's an exciting prospect and he's certainly put himself in a great position where he's playing for a really good club, at a very good level, playing against really top players and that's what you need to really push yourself and test yourself."

Hickey made 30 appearances as Hearts suffered relegation from the Scottish Premiership last season and, after making his Bologna debut in a 4-1 win over Parma, started in three defeats before being dropped to the bench for Tuesday's win over Reggina.

Gemmill recognised that some had expected Hickey to have had an international call-up sooner but said: "It's hard to get into the under-21 squad and that's the way it should be.

"Sometimes players get fast-tracked, but the only big of context I would give to Aaron is that there was a large period of time where he wasn't playing games.

"He had a big impact with Hearts, then lockdown came, so there was a period when he wasn't playing, and then he got his move. We realised how important it was for him to establish himself at the club so we didn't include him, but everything's right to include him now."

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Rangers winger Kai Kennedy, currently on loan to Scottish Championship club Inverness Caledonian Thistle, is also promoted from the under-19s.

Scotland Under-21 squad

Goalkeepers: Ross Doohan (Ross County, on loan from Celtic), Brian Kinnear (Rangers), Robby McCrorie (Livingston, on loan from Rangers)

Defenders: Harrison Ashby (West Ham United), Daniel Harvie (MK Dons), Aaron Hickey (Bologna), George Johnston (Feyenoord), Lewis Mayo (Dunfermline Athletic), Tom McIntyre (Reading), Nathan Patterson (Rangers), Ryan Porteous (Hibernian), Patrick Reading (Ayr United).

Midfielders: Allan Campbell (Motherwell), Lewis Ferguson (Aberdeen), Kai Kennedy (Inverness Caledonian Thistle, on loan from Rangers), Kyle Magennis (Hibernian), Barry Maguire (Motherwell), Ross McCrorie (Aberdeen, on loan from Rangers), David Turnbull (Celtic).

Forwards: Fraser Hornby (Stade de Reims), Connor McLennan (Aberdeen), Glenn Middleton (Rangers).

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