Jack Hamilton still feels it’s slightly surreal seeing his name in the Scotland squad. His parents might take quite a while to accept that their son is considered one of this country’s top goalkeepers.
Mr and Mrs Hamilton believed they were being duped back in May when told by Jack, then second-choice at Hearts, that he had been called into the senior Scotland squad. The national side were due to face Italy and France in end-of-season friendlies.
The phone call which prompted widespread shock in the Hamilton household came from Hearts’ director of football, Craig Levein. After Dundee’s Scott Bain and Hull City’s Allan McGregor withdrew from international duty, Hamilton was called in.
“Craig phoned me. I was just getting ready for summer holidays when I got the call,” said Hamilton. “I was in the house getting ready to eat my dinner and I couldn’t quite believe it. I was star-struck a wee bit.
“My mum and dad thought I was taking the mickey. They were like: ‘Shut up.’ It was fantastic. To be involved in that squad was brilliant.”
He has retained his place since then but remains uncapped. He is part of the squad for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Lithuania and Slovakia. Concurrent with his international progress from Scotland under-21s to the full squad, Hamilton, 22, is also now the first-choice keeper at Hearts.
“It’s been brilliant for me these last few months. It’s just trying to think a game at a time and not get too far ahead of myself,” he said. “I’ve got to try to stay in the Hearts team, that’s the main aim.”
He is now becoming familiar with Strachan’s squad. This will be his third time with the group. “It does make it easier. It’s been good to have Callum [Paterson] there with me both times so far. I’ve been rooming with him. Having somebody you know is really good. The other goalies are all great with you and the coaching staff all make you welcome.”
The awe which first accompanied him on Scotland trips is beginning to subside. Hamilton is a definite third choice behind David Marshall and Craig Gordon whilst McGregor is injured. He is gradually adapting to the demands of training with international goalkeepers.
“You’re watching the other keepers and trying to learn from them,” he said. “You’re also trying to get better and be ready in case you’re called upon. The first couple of times you’re like: ‘Wow, I’m training with these guys.’ Now I’m thinking I’ve got to be there and be ready just in case you get that call.
“There are loads of good Scottish goalkeepers so I’ve got to keep progressing at Hearts. The main aim is to stay in the Hearts team. Hopefully we can keep doing well and progressing.”
The Edinburgh club travel to Fir Park on league business tonight seeking a win which would catapult them back to second place in the Ladbrokes Premiership. The game pits Hamilton and Paterson up against their assistant coach with Scotland, the Motherwell manager Mark McGhee.
“It will be good to go there and play against Motherwell. We need to get the three points so it’s a massive game for us,” said Hamilton. “Mark has been fine with me. Everybody is there if you need advice, they’re there to help you.”