Aaron Hickey on his first Scotland start, EPL transfer interest and why Bologna has been a 'top experience'

The rain on Aaron Hickey’s parade can only be considered a shower.

It has been a curious old week for the youngster. Feted over a fine season with Bologna, the extent to which the 19-year-old has burnished his reputation in Italy was evidenced by reports of £20m moves for him by West Ham United and Arsenal in the early part of it. The natural follow-on was that Hickey was championed as the smart choice to replace the injured Nathan Patterson for Scotland’s World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine. That duly came to pass, earning the full-back a first start for his country in a less-favoured right-sided role.

Few pre-match concerns were raised about the more natural left-back operating on the opposite flank. Not least because he excelled as a right wing-back for his club away to Juventus a mere six weeks ago. This gave way to countless being voiced as a consequence of his unconvincing display in the 3-1 defeat that condemns Scotland’s to a 28-year separation from the World Cup finals… at the very least. That is not on Hickey, or his national manager Steve Clarke. And it is necessary to factor in the callowness of the former Hearts performer over how he reflects on his Hampden landmark.

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"It was an amazing experience personally for myself, but gutted about the result,” he said. “I got a text before I came to the camp that there might be a chance that I would be playing, so I just went into training thinking 'hopefully if I do well here, then the manager might give me a chance'. I’m delighted that he gave me the opportunity to help the team. I'm really happy for that." Hickey does not believe he is best placed to assess whether his performance justified the faith placed in him by Clarke. "I don't really know [about my own perfromance], I was too focused on trying to do the best for the team, but unfortunately it didn't go our way.”

The teenager’s club career appears to be going in only one direction, and that is up. To what heights cannot be determined right now, though. Hickey is understandably unsure whether the recent speculation gives reason to believe he inevitably will be the subject of a major transfer in this summer, following two years of crucial development in the Emilia-Romagna region. “I just look at it, keep my head down and wherever I am just keep focusing on what I am doing,” he said.

What Hickey has been doing since his bold decision to leave his homeland as an 18-year-old is what can ensure he is an asset for his country - starting with the Nations League tilt that will bring three games in the next week-and-a-half, starting with Wednesday’s hosting of Armenia. He has been soaking up the intense coaching and conditioning work demanded of him at a mid-table Serie A side. "It's a top experience for me to go to a different country, a different culture, different way of playing football and it's just good personally to learn from different experiences,” he said. "They spend a lot of time in training tactically, where you should be, body shape. The manager in Bologna [Siniša Mihajlović] has really helped me with that and the coaching staff as well. It's talking about it, walking through it in training. A bit of everything, even watching videos of where to be and stuff.”

Aaron Hickey earned his first start for Scotland in Wednesday's 3-1 defeat to Ukraine. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

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