RYAN McGOWAN and Ian Black presented a defiant and united front after being booed on their international debuts at Easter Road.
The Hearts defender and his former Tynecastle colleague were jeered while appearing as substitutes during Scotland’s 3-1 friendly win over Australia. Both declared themselves unfazed by the attention and pledged to continue representing their respective nations.
McGowan earned his first full Australian cap on his 23rd birthday by replacing Sasa Ognenovski 12 minutes from the end. Black, now with Rangers, then took over from Gary Caldwell to make his Scotland debut with three minutes remaining. Both players were jeered and felt they were targeted by Hibs fans in the crowd because of their Hearts connections. However, they remain undeterred by the abuse.
“We were having a laugh after the game with us both getting booed,” said McGowan. “I don’t mind if I get booed here for the rest of the year – we still won 5-1 last year in the [Scottish] Cup.
“Obviously I’ve been thinking about that since I was a young boy, so it was a proud moment for myself and for my family to finally represent Australia.
“It has been a whirlwind 12 months. If you’d said to me then that in 12 months’ time I’d be coming on for the Socceroos, I probably would have laughed at you. It was a lot of hard work when I was younger and through last season, so I’m just delighted to get my cap.”
Black echoed the pride felt by McGowan after a long-awaited Scotland debut. “It’s probably the biggest and proudest moment of my career. I’m absolutely delighted. It is disappointing coming to represent your country and you get a reception like that, but I’ve got big enough shoulders to take it and get on with it.
“I deal with that every week, but it is still disappointing that you’re playing for your country and playing for the fans that are supposed to be here supporting you and they do that. I’m big enough to get on with it and I just hope I get another opportunity.”
Black’s call-up came in controversial circumstances following his move to Ibrox, with many criticising Scotland manager Craig Levein for ignoring the midfielder during a standout campaign with Hearts last year. Black insisted he was not ignored.
“It’s about ability. People were knocking me because they couldn’t believe it, but I just missed out on the USA squad [in May] because of a hernia operation. People need to remember how well I did last season. They can’t say that, just because I’ve decided to go to Rangers in the Third Division, I don’t deserve to be here.”
The victory will have boosted morale within the Scotland camp ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifying matches against Serbia and Macedonia. The excellent Jordan Rhodes, another debutant, scored first with a beautiful glancing header. A Jason Davidson own goal and a late Ross McCormack strike secured victory despite Mark Bresciano’s 30-yard volley having opened the scoring. Scotland now confront Serbia in Glasgow next month.
“The overall team performance was good,” said former Hearts defender Christophe Berra. “Australia scored a wonder goal out of nothing. I think we were the better team and we probably should have scored a few goals in the first half. This will do us a world of good in terms of confidence going into the qualifiers.
“From a personal point of view, it was my first 90 minutes this pre-season. I’ve played 45 minutes a few times and I’ve played for an hour, so I’m glad to play a full game. In the last ten minutes you get a bit tired and you can get slack, but the game will do all the boys the world of good.
“There’s a month to go now. Everybody will go back to their clubs to get sharper and fitter. There were a few slack moments last night, which is normal at the start of the season. It’ll take three or four games into the league season till everyone is 100 per cent.
“Serbia are a top team with world-class players. We will need to be right on it to get something from that game.”