John Souttar: New Rangers signing speaks for first time since Hearts exit as Scotland play-off looms

John Souttar is hoping to play his part in taking Scotland to the World Cup before officially joining up with Rangers in time for pre-season next month.

The defender brought the curtain down on his Hearts career with a stand-out display in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden on Saturday, despite the 2-0 defeat to his soon-to-be employers, in his first start in more than two months due to an ankle injury.

It was a performance that convinced national coach Steve Clarke to include the 25-year-old centre-back in his squad for the forthcoming World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine, with a potential final against Wales to follow, as well as Nations League matches against Armenia and Ireland.

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“I’m looking forward to it. It’s brilliant to be back in with the boys and I’m looking forward to the games,” Souttar said in an interview with the Scottish FA. “There is quality throughout the squad but there are good people as well.

“People have been here consistently, we’ve named a similar squad and you saw the quality from the last games. We’ve just got to keep it going.”

Injury forced Souttar to miss the last Scotland camp in March where a 1-1 draw with Poland at Hampden and a 2-2 draw with Austria in Vienna extended the national side’s unbeaten run to eight matches.

The friendlies were hastily arranged in place of the postponed Ukraine showdown, which was rescheduled to June 1 following to the Russian invasion, meaning Souttar is now fit and available for selection after completing his recovery.

"I’ve enjoyed my football this year,” he said. “Only really the last month and a half or two months have been difficult, being out injured.

John Souttar is in the Scotland squad for upcoming matches.

“To get back playing at the weekend, obviously the result was disappointing but for myself it was good timing to allow me to get back in the Scotland squad as well.

“I think that was the important thing when I got injured: It was getting back for the final and getting back for the Scotland camp. I did everything I could to be here and thankfully I've made it.

“The [Scotland] games have gone well. Everyone is enjoying themselves, everyone enjoys being in the camp. I think you can feel it within the boys, within the group and within the country that there’s something building here. It’s just about taking it into the next few games.”

Souttar’s last international appearance – and his first in three years – came in the 2-0 win over Denmark in the final World Cup qualifier last November that secured a best-placed runners-up finish in Group F and kept Scotland on course for Qatar 2022.

“Yeah, it was a good moment to score against Denmark and see the boys perform how we did,” he said. “It wasn’t just the win, it was how we performed and how settled and how well we did as a team.

“That’s what you want to be involved in when you play for Scotland, games like that. The atmosphere was incredible [against Denmark]. If I can be involved in any capacity against Ukraine, that would be brilliant.

"It’s good to be back in, see a few boys and I’m looking forward to everyone being back in together in the next few games.”

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