'So much quality' - the former Rangers striker lighting up League One and pushing for a first Scotland call-up

Former Rangers striker Ryan Hardie is pushing for a first senior Scotland call-up after lighting up the scoring charts in England's League One.

The Plymouth Argyle frontman notched his 17th goal of the campaign with a penalty in the 2-1 win over Derby County on Tuesday evening and is already closing in on surpassing last season's haul of 19 goals in all competitions.

A run of seven strikes in his last 11 games has helped push the Pilgrims up to second place in the table, behind leaders Sheffield Wednesday only on goal difference, with an appearance at Wembley also on the horizon in the Papa Johns Trophy final against Bolton Wanderers on Sunday, April 2.

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Hardie's red-hot form comes as Scotland boss Steve Clarke faces a striker shortage ahead of the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Spain and Cyprus at the end of the month. With Lyndon Dykes still in recuperation after being hospitalised with a bout of pneumonia, Sunderland's Ross Stewart ruled out for the rest of the season with an achilles injury, and Ryan Fraser suffering from a lack of game-time after being banished to the Newcastle reserves, there is the potential for fresh faces in the squad.

Plymouth Argyle's Ryan Hardie during the Sky Bet League One match at Ipswich on January 14, 2023.Plymouth Argyle's Ryan Hardie during the Sky Bet League One match at Ipswich on January 14, 2023.
Plymouth Argyle's Ryan Hardie during the Sky Bet League One match at Ipswich on January 14, 2023.

Che Adams, Kevin Nisbet, Jacob Brown, Ryan Christie and Lawrence Shankland are all likely to be in contention but Hardie, who will be 26 later this month, has not given up hope of representing his country at senior level having played for Scotland at the various age groups up to and including Under 21s.

"For me it's just about proving what I can do, getting myself as high up as possible and then thinking about that," he told Plymouth Live. "It comes with success, so I just need to keep doing well and then you never know. Everybody's dream is to play for their country. It's something I will never ever give up on but I'm not saying I'm ready for it yet."

Hardie came through the youth ranks at Rangers and scored two goals in 13 first team appearances. He also enjoyed fruitful loan spells at Raith, St Mirren and Livingston while at Ibrox before moving south to join Blackpool in 2019. He was loaned to Plymouth six months later before making the move permanent and his career has taken off on the south coast, with the Stranraer-born striker now just one strike shy of 50 goals for the club.

Hardie's form in League One is not dissimilar to that of Sunderland’s Ross Stewart last season, with the former Ross County striker earning his first Scotland call-up in March last year after a similar scoring rate in England’s third tier.

Ryan Hardie in action for Rangers in 2015.Ryan Hardie in action for Rangers in 2015.
Ryan Hardie in action for Rangers in 2015.

Speaking after Hardie scored a stunning lob in a recent 2-0 win over Charlton Athletic, Argyle head coach Steven Schumacher said: "He has showed that loads and loads of times. He has got so much quality. The touch to bring it down out the air from that high was outstanding, and then there was his calmness in front of goal.

"It doesn't matter if he has missed a few chances in the first half, he just keeps going and he backs himself all the time because he knows in this team we create chances for him "He knows he's going to get them and he's confident to take them. Once again he has proved how good he is."



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