David Bates believes he can be the answer to Alex McLeish’s selection issues in central defence for Saturday’s pivotal Nations League tie in Albania, with the 22-year-old Hamburg player considering himself “totally ready” to be pitched in for a first senior Scotland outing.
The 22-year-old says he could cope with being thrown in for such a high pressure encounter because he believes his summer move to German second tier side Hamburg from Rangers has allowed him to play at a superior level than the Scottish Premiership.
The injury absences of centre-back Charlie Mulgrew and right-back Stephen O’Donnell will require McLeish to recast his backline. The national manager suffered another blow yesterday when Aberdeen’s Mikey Devlin was forced to withdraw due to a knock sustained against Hibs. Celtic’s Jack Hendry has been called up but pairing Bates with Scott McKenna in the heart of the Scottish defence is beginning to look like the most sensible option for McLeish. Bates is confident he is capable of making the step up.
“I have been playing every game for Hamburg except for a couple and I feel I have come on a lot as a player,” said Bates, who has started on the bench in recent weeks following a red card last month. “So I definitely feel ready. I have learned a different style of play in Germany. It’s not go in behind or kick it maybe longer if you are under pressure. It’s more a case of play out from the back and in training you always practise that with the ball. There are very technical players around, so they can make that easy for you. So I have come on technically, I would think.
“For me, the Bundesliga 2 is a better league [than Scotland]. Every team is competitive and you go away to grounds and it’s a sell-out. You’re up against different types of players and all teams are tactically switched on. I feel like I’m learning so much.
“I have played in Old Firm games and also Hamburg-St Pauli [derby] about a month ago. I’ve already experienced some big games in my career. I think you just go into every match with the same attitude and try to do your best. You don’t think about the occasion too much, really. Germany’s been brilliant, probably the best decision I could have made, playing at the highest level week in, week out. With the football very technical, I’m learning a different side of the game.
It was definitely the right decision.”