Scotland manager Alex McLeish feels the time is right to give former Dundee United defender John Souttar a “crack” at international football.
Souttar, now captaining Premiership leaders Hearts, is the only uncapped player in McLeish’s squad for the friendly against Belgium on September 7 and Uefa Nations League opener against Albania three days later, with both games at Hampden.
He has been being promoted from the under-21s following injuries to Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna and his Tynecastle teammate Christophe Berra.
Souttar (21), who came through the ranks at Tannadice, had been called up by McLeish for the summer friendlies against Peru and Mexico at the end of last season but was among the raft of players who withdrew from that squad.
“He’s a good young player,” said McLeish.
“I have assessed a few of the young players and I have seen quite a bit of Hearts.
“He has started the season very confidently.
“He has now got the captain’s armband and his form has been pretty assured.
“I saw him last week at Dunfermline and he looked very composed and I thought it was time to give him a crack at coming into the squad.”
Kilmarnock full-back Stephen O’Donnell, Aberdeen midfielder Graeme Shinnie and Johnny Russell of Sporting Kansas City – another ex-United man – have retained their places following the summer trip to Peru and Mexico.
However, Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur has ruled himself out of consideration for the national team for the foreseeable future.
The 30-year-old has played every minute of Palace’s three English Premier League games this season but wants to rest a back problem during the international break.
McArthur, who has 32 caps, has asked to be left out and McLeish warned there were no guarantees the former Hamilton player would return if his fitness issues clear up.
The manager said: “I like James – I think he’s a terrific player – and it’s disappointing not to have him but he has some issues in his body.
“You hear a lot of players saying that when they get to a certain age they know exactly what they need in terms of their fitness and he has had some issues with his back.
“He felt at the moment he can’t combine international football with the task of playing in the Premier League and cup games for Crystal Palace.
“So he has put his club first. They are the people who pay his wages.
“It’s disappointing to lose him but it’s his personal decision.
“He has not said he has hung up his boots for Scotland but that’s the way he feels at the moment.
“He hasn’t put any date on it.
“He has just signed a new contract with Crystal Palace.
“I guess if we have got a winning formula without him then it will be difficult for anybody to get back in.”
The likes of Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie and West Ham winger Robert Snodgrass are also missing from a largely youthful squad.
Squad: Goalkeepers: Jordan Archer (Millwall), Craig Gordon (Celtic), Allan McGregor (Rangers) Defenders: Jack Hendry (Celtic), Charlie Mulgrew (Blackburn Rovers), Stephen O’Donnell (Kilmarnock), Andy Robertson (Liverpool), Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen), John Souttar (Heart of Midlothian), Kieran Tierney (Celtic). Midfielders: Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), Tom Cairney (Fulham), James Forrest (Celtic), Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Kevin McDonald (Fulham), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Callum Paterson (Cardiff City). Forwards: Leigh Griffiths (Celtic), Oli McBurnie (Swansea City), Matt Phillips (West Bromwich Albion), Johnny Russell (Sporting Kansas City).