STEVEN Naismith told Hearts centre half John Souttar he needs to work hard to get rid of his reputation of being error-prone if he wanted to fulfil his potential when he joined the Tynecastle club on loan last year, writes Matthew Lindsay.

But Naismith believes the Tynecastle centre half has successfully done that and is ready to establish himself as a first team regular with Scotland under new manager Steve Clarke.

The national team take on Cyprus in a Euro 2020 qualifier at Hampden tomorrow evening and supporters are intrigued to see how they line-up under Clarke,

Naismith, who is unavailable due to a knee injury, feels Souttar, who has won three caps for his country to date, should kick-off the game in defence.


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“I clicked with him straight away,” he said. “He wants to learn and he asks a lot of questions. I said: ‘Look, I’ll give you my opinion. Before I met you I thought you were a defender who makes strikers think, ‘oooft, I might get something off of him’.

“He would put himself in situations where he just gets a toe in. I said to him that perception would carry unless he got rid of it. But from training with John I learned that he actually doesn’t give much away.

“I will always be honest with my team mates. The funny thing is that I roomed with John with Scotland. But I knew he was someone who could take it. That he could go further. For me honesty has always been the best way. Giving somebody false dreams is only going to end in tears.

“He is somebody I knew to be a strong character, very mature beyond his age. You look at him now and he is an established Scotland player.

“You look at defenders like (Virgil) van Dijk and there’s never a moment when you think ‘the striker is going to nick it off him’. It doesn’t really happen. And John never gave up a lot of chances.


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“But the perception of me being down south watching Scottish games was that John was risky. He took a lot of risks as a defender. I must say over the last year he has massively improved in that regard.

“He has improved massively. Not just on the ball but also as a defender first and foremost. I think that’s why he got his Scotland chance – because he did become more reliable.’

Asked if he though Scott McKenna and Souttar could form a reliable central defensive partnership for Scotland, Naismith said: “They could, yes. They’ve definitely played for the younger international age groups together.

But, again, Charlie Mulgrew brings a lot with his set plays and how comfortable he is on the ball. We’ve definitely got options now.”