STEVEN Hammell will never give up hope of adding to his solitary cap for Scotland – but the veteran Motherwell left-back admits there is now a stand-alone candidate to fill that position in the national team for the foreseeable future.
Andrew Robertson is expected to make his third appearance for Scotland in tomorrow’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia at Ibrox, the 20-year-old having enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence over the past 18 months.
Now shining in the English Premier League with Hull City, who paid £2.85 million for him in the summer following his outstanding debut season at Dundee United, Robertson appears poised to establish himself as Gordon Strachan’s first-choice left-back.
It has been a problematic role for Scotland in the recent past with Hammell, who earned his only cap so far in a friendly against Sweden in 2004, drafted into Strachan’s squad on three occasions last year as cover.
The 32-year-old says he will always remain ready to answer his country’s call but believes Robertson is now very much the man in possession at left-back.
“Andy has been excellent,” observed Hammell. “I’ve been really impressed with him. The jump from the Scottish Premiership to the English Premier League is massive but I’ve seen a couple of his games for Hull on TV and he’s coped with it well.
“They play a system that suits him down there and he’s handled it all well. Scotland need someone who will cement that position as their own because over the last five or six years there hasn’t been a guaranteed first-choice left-back.
“I can see Andy being there for a few years to come. Whenever we played against Dundee United last season, he was really impressive. He’s comfortable defending but he’s a threat going forward as well.
“He’s got that thing that all youngsters have where he plays without fear and he seems to really enjoy the games. I just hope he keeps progressing.
“I think we’re stronger now in the left-back department compared to when I was called into the squad last summer. As well as Robertson, Steven Whittaker has played there a few times and been excellent, the boy Craig Forsyth at Derby County has played really well and then there’s Lee Wallace at Rangers, so there’s definitely options.
“On a personal level you never give up on Scotland. I really enjoyed my time being involved with the squad last season but the start of this season hasn’t gone as I’d have expected with the injury I’ve had and I’m just focusing on getting fit, getting back into the Motherwell team and hopefully getting us up that Premiership table.
“When I was called up by Scotland last season, Lee Wallace was injured and Steven Whittaker was suspended. I was in Largs doing my A licence coaching course at the time when Stuart McCall phoned me. I thought it was about something to do with Motherwell, but he asked me if I was okay to join the Scotland squad. It was a bit of a shock but I got a great deal from being part of it.”
Hammell’s experience of the Scotland set-up under Strachan allowed him to assess the contributions made by assistant manager Mark McGhee and coach McCall, his former and current managers at Motherwell respectively.
“They’re two of the best managers I’ve played with, without doubt,” added Hammell. “They’ve got that excellent balance of hard work while keeping the atmosphere bubbling away.
“They’re excellent coaches and leave no stone unturned with regards to the opposition and how they want to play and I think they’re a great benefit to the national manager.
“They have a good relationship with the players but at the same time you know there is a line you can’t step over.
“They’ve got standards which you need to meet and they have that authority about them and they have that down to a tee. I wouldn’t say you fear them as such but they command respect.
“All managers need to be able to do that and I’ve been on the receiving end a couple of times. You could win games and they’re still not happy. That’s the standards they demand as coaches and if you’re not doing what they expect from you then you’ll let them know.
“Stuart McCall would probably admit himself that he’s still learning as a manager and will be better for being involved in the international set-up and facing top countries and top coaches in the world. That can only be a help.
“I’ve heard some Motherwell fans question him being away with Scotland when it’s not going so well for us but he’s got staff who can stay back and help. He’s going away and working and playing with and against some of the best players in the world and personally I think we can only benefit from that.
“I really do believe that this could be Scotland’s time to finally qualify for a major finals again. When I was called up I was just concentrating on working away and doing yourself justice but the lads were really welcoming.
“You hear it said a lot of times about national teams but there is a real club atmosphere and that can take you far. Everyone seems to be happy and give their all for the national manager which isn’t always the case.”
• Steven Hammell was speaking at the launch of the 2014-15 SPFL Topps Match Attax Collection, which features all Scottish Premiership and Scottish Championship clubs. It is on sale now from all good retail outlets.