Interview: Andy Webster ahead of Scotland v Serbia
ANDY Webster did not feature in a single minute of Scotland’s last qualifying campaign yet has jockeyed himself back into position for a starting slot tomorrow, when Scotland face Serbia in the opening game of a latest attempt to reach a major finals.
It is clear he is relishing continuing phase two of his Scotland career, which has been resuscitated under Craig Levein now that the defender has again proved himself to be injury free. The Hearts player has started Scotland’s last two friendlies and, if picked, will win his 26th cap this weekend, nine years after making his debut.
There have been many subsequent high and lows in the player’s career. However, his second stint at Tynecastle is proving a worthwhile one indeed, with a Scottish Cup victory over Hibernian heralding a return to the Scotland team in May.
His appearance against the United States in a mostly forgettable 5-1 defeat was Webster’s first for Scotland since 2010, and even that was a one-off appearance against Czech Republic as Webster succumbed once again to injury.
But he has proved himself against players of the quality of Luis Suarez this season as Hearts lost out narrowly to Liverpool in the Europa League play-off, an experience he feels can only aid him ahead of the forthcoming high-octane qualifiers against Serbia and Macedonia.
“It’s been a good few weeks,” he said. “As a footballer you want to play in the big games. There has been ups and downs but it’s been a good experience.”
He faced not only Suarez at Anfield, but also the £10 million- rated Fabio Borini. Webster kept the latter quiet in the first leg at Tynecastle also but had the misfortune of scoring an own goal as Hearts looked to be close to a famous result. It didn’t detract from his or the team’s performance, however.
“You benefit most as a player by testing yourself against the best and that’s why clubs pay tens of millions of pounds for these players,” he said. “Obviously, I have recently done that against Liverpool and myself and everyone else at Tynecastle will be better off for that.”
There is, though, another step-up to be negotiated when pulling on an international shirt. Although Liverpool may well be regarded as at least the equal of Serbia, the stakes will be higher on Saturday as the players begin an odyssey which they hope will take them to the greatest football show on earth.
“You notice the difference in quality at international level,” said Webster. “Players are thinking one or two steps ahead and the way they link up play, their movement and awareness of what’s going on means that you are up against a higher standard than you are domestically.
“From a defensive point of view, it is all about levels of concentration,” he added. “I know that one move in the wrong direction will allow their strikers or midfielders in on goal before I know it, so you have to be switched on all the time. There’s not a minute where you can think: I’ll just take breather. You don’t get that luxury.”
At 30, Webster believes he is better equipped to handle the task than he has ever has been. Two wins from these first game will be an “ideal start” as he eyes the prospect of a World Cup finals experience.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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