Lewis Morgan hopes to put a domestic season which ended in stoppage time misery at Wembley firmly behind him by seizing the chance to shine on the international stage at Hampden.
The 22-year-old Celtic midfielder’s loan spell at Sunderland culminated in that agonising League One Play-Off Final defeat to Charlton last month but he believes the experience can propel him towards establishing himself as a first team regular with the Scottish champions next season.
Morgan’s immediate priority is to catch the eye of new Scotland manager Steve Clarke who named him in his first squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Cyprus at Hampden on Saturday and Belgium in Brussels next Tuesday.
The opportunity to add to the two caps he earned on Scotland’s summer trip to face Peru and Mexico this time last year has come as a timely boost for Morgan, pictured.
“The play-off final clearly wasn’t the end of season I’d hoped for at club level,” he said. “But there is a chance now to end the season overall on a positive note. It can’t rectify what happened at Wembley but the chance to play international games is pivotal.
“The games in Peru and Mexico were a great experience for me. I remember at the time some people saying it wasn’t a worthwhile exercise, but it certainly was for the players like myself who came in and played.
“You can see some of us have stayed involved in the squad, with Scott Bain, Jon McLaughlin, Graeme Shinnie and Stephen O’Donnell also here this week. From that aspect, we were able to blood some players who have taken their chance.
“You don’t want to be only be involved with Scotland because of other players calling off. You want to be involved in the manager’s thoughts at first. At that point last year, I’d come off the back of a really good season and I did try to kick on.”
Instead, Morgan’s first season at Celtic proved frustrating. He started just one game in his 13 appearances and was hampered by a knee injury. His loan move to Sunderland, where he rejoined his former St Mirren boss Jack Ross, gave him regular football once more.
“I had to go out on loan to get games in my legs again,” added Morgan. “It’s been a positive because it’s got me back into the international scene but I still feel there are higher levels to come from me.
“I don’t want to use injuries as an excuse because I had chances every day at Celtic to force my way into the team but now, with getting the number of games under my belt that I have done at Sunderland, I am looking forward to next season.
“I still back myself to make it at Celtic. There is big competition for places but I knew when I signed for the club it would be like that. I look at guys like Ryan Christie, Callum McGregor and Kris Ajer who all went out on loan then came back to really push themselves into the Celtic first team. That’s what I want to do now.”