Aaron Hickey and Scotland: Why under-21s disquiet has been put to one side by Steve Clarke

Craig Brown used to react to a clamour to pick a certain player he might have been unconvinced about by appearing to take public opinion on board.

The Scotland manager would then let the player involved play himself out of contention.

He would hear no more about it thereafter. That isn’t the plan for Aaron Hickey, who is the latest subject of what has felt like a public campaign to see him recognised at full international level.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A desire for a peaceful life isn’t why current Scotland manager Steve Clarke has perhaps ignored his better judgement or at least his instincts when naming the 19-year-old full-back in his squad for two upcoming friendlies, the first of which takes place on Thursday night against Poland.

Aaron Hickey has been in good form for Bologna, earning a Scotland call-up.Aaron Hickey has been in good form for Bologna, earning a Scotland call-up.
Aaron Hickey has been in good form for Bologna, earning a Scotland call-up.

He might have preferred to leave things a while, particularly given the circumstances. There’s been disquiet about Hickey – or at least his father’s – questionable attitude towards involvement with the Under-21s.

If he was not half as talented and Bologna wasn't landlocked then he might have been told to take a long walk off a short pier by now.

Instead, Hickey has prepared a compelling case for inclusion by starting all bar two of Bologna’s game in Serie A so far this season. The perceived sins of the father cannot be visited on the son.

Clarke is nobody’s fool. One only needs to reflect on his treatment of Ryan Fraser to realise this. The Newcastle player has enjoyed a sustained period of good form at club level and might have expected to be named in the current Scotland squad.

But there was that little matter of dropping out of the last squad when Clarke expected more commitment as Scotland stood on the brink of a play-off spot.

Fraser cited an injury but was then photographed training with his Newcastle teammates.

Clarke left Fraser in little doubt about his unhappiness. One suspects he will let bygones be bygones – eventually. Leaving him out of the latest squad was a sign that he won’t be messed about. It’s not as if Clarke is cutting off his nose to spite his face.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

These are friendly matches after all. The adaptable Hickey can also ensure that Fraser won’t be missed – just as he wasn’t against Moldova and Denmark.

Hickey is a coming man. It is all in front of the former Hearts player. Normally a left-back, he can even play in Fraser’s position and already has featured at right wing back for Bologna against AC Milan of all sides. This might be where he is initially employed with Scotland.

Nathan Patterson, seemingly perpetually perched on the Everton bench, can't expect to feature ahead of a Serie A regular.

That’s part of the attraction with Hickey. His versatility means it’s like having four extra players in the squad. Two footed, he can play anywhere across the backline.

There is little need to be convinced of the sense in handing Hickey a first call up even given the unspoken complication of the player’s recent unwillingness to turn out for the Under 21s.

That might be the normal route but it isn’t the only way to access the top squad. Clarke has himself stressed that. “Not everyone gets to the A squad through the 21s,” he said earlier this week.

Rather than playing his way out of contention, the hope is Hickey will play himself very much in. Still a teenager, his talent is such that he can surely target 100 caps in a variety of positions.