Robbie Neilson delighted to see Hearts players earn international recognition

Heart of Midlothian v Istanbul Basaksehir – UEFA Europa Conference League – Group A – Tynecastle Park
(Image credit: Robert Perry)

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson was delighted to see more of his players get international recognition and return hungry for Saturday’s visit of Rangers.

Cammy Devlin made his Australia debut and Stephen Kingsley won his second cap for Scotland while Barrie McKay was also a late call-up for Steve Clarke’s squad.

Nathaniel Atkinson took his Australia caps total to five in the double header against New Zealand while Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon made it to 73 international appearances.

Neilson, who also had Connor Smith and Lewis Neilson playing for Scotland Under-21s, said: “I’m pleased that the guys have got some game time. A club of the stature of Hearts, it’s important we have international players.

“Over the years, we have had a lot of players coming through, the last few we have not had so many. It’s good to start getting them going away again, getting that experience, and having that hunger when they come back. Thankfully they have all got back in good condition.

“It works both ways, when we bring players in we say to them it’s our job to improve you and try and get you on the international scene, but their job is to be successful for the club.

“Stephen and Barrie have deserved to be in the international team. For the last 18 months, two years, they have been outstanding for us and it’s just great that they get that recognition.

“I was delighted for Stephen, a great guy. We brought him here a few years ago and he has been outstanding. A really good person first and foremost, and I am just pleased for him and his family.”

Devlin came off the bench in Australia’s second friendly against the All Whites.

“I’m delighted for the wee man,” Neilson said. “It’s something we spoke about when he came, about giving him that platform to go and play international football. I am pleased that he managed to do that.

“If he continues to play the way he has been playing, he will give himself a chance to go to the World Cup.”

Gordon played in all three Scotland games despite his partner giving birth to a boy on the day of his team’s win over Republic of Ireland.

“He is a very experienced player and very calm and he brings that calming influence to everyone else,” Neilson said.

“We knew his partner was pregnant and was due round about this time. Craig was desperate to be there, as he was, but also wants to continue to get international caps. It was a good week for him, that’s for sure.

“We spoke to him about taking some time off but he came in today because he wants to be ready for the weekend. That just shows the manner of him.”

Another player who might have been involved for Scotland is Craig Halkett but the defender has missed most of the season with a hamstring problem and is set to miss out again on Saturday.

“He has trained the last couple of days but he will be touch and go for the weekend,” Neilson said. “I think it will be too early for him, to be honest.”

Hearts are looking to leapfrog Rangers in the cinch Premiership table.

“Both teams will be going into the game full of confidence,” Neilson said. “We have had a couple of weeks’ rest and are ready to go, but we see it as a great opportunity.

“We know if we win the game on Saturday we go second, which is massive for us. And then we have a European game after that.

“It’s a great opportunity, we are at home, and to be honest at Tynecastle whoever we play against we expect to win the game, and it will be no different on Saturday.”

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