Scotland under-21 striker Fraser Hornby is almost ready to be called up for Alex McLeish’s full squad after his brilliant five-goal haul, according to international team-mate Ryan Porteous.
Scot Gemmill’s side remain in the hunt for a first qualification for a European Championships since 1996 after a superb 2-1 win in the Netherlands, which followed their 3-0 victory over Andorra last week.
With two games remaining, Scotland travel to Kiev to face Ukraine, who sit joint second with the Scots, before a final match against group leaders England at Tynecastle. The Scots aim to finish the group as one of the four best runners-up, who go into a play-off.
All five goals were netted by Everton youngster Hornby who has exploded on to the scene after being compared to his mentor, Goodison Park coach Duncan Ferguson. With Scotland not exactly having an abundance of quality strikers, Hibs defender Porteous has underlined the potential of Hornby, who turns 19 today.
He said: “I’ve played with him for two years. He’s a great player, he can do both sides of the game – he’s a big targetman and a strong boy but he’s technically very good and his awareness is fantastic.
“You see it in the build-up to his second goal [against the Netherlands]. It was a nothing throw-in which was clipped into him and one touch around the corner and he’s won us a penalty. He’s been brilliant for us.
“He can definitely play for Scotland and I don’t think he’s that far away. We’ve looked at Scotland the last couple of games and they’ve been decent. But in my opinion, that’s what they could need – a target man. They’ve got a couple in the pecking order, but I don’t see why Fraser can’t make that step up.
“I just try to kick him in training! We all know he’s a high-class player – he wouldn’t have played for Everton’s first team if he hadn’t.
“I’ve played with him when he was the No 10, but I’ve seen him play deeper. At under-17s he played holding midfield and he was outstanding. He can play anywhere. He’d probably do a job at centre-half too so I’d better watch my back!
“It’s a huge step to go from playing as a deep midfielder to a striker, not just for country but club too. To adapt to that, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to play midfield or even up front.
“It would be difficult but he’s been through stages and not scored. Now the goals are coming we’ve got to give him the credit he deserves.”
Porteous deserved plenty of credit too after an outstanding performance at the back with Hamburg’s David Bates as they repelled wave after wave of Dutch attacks late on.
The Easter Road defender admits he is disappointed he won’t have more time to develop a budding partnership with the former Rangers centre-half. He said: “As soon as we met each other we just clicked instantly as guys as well. He’s funny and a good character to have in the changing room.
“I think our partnership is great. We talk to each other all the time but we know exactly what position each other is in which is quite rare.
“We’ve only been going for a couple of weeks. He’s not available for the next campaign which is a shame. It’s taken us this long to build a partnership. But hopefully in future years we could maybe play with each other. We’ve still got a couple of games next month which I’ll look forward to.
“To beat Holland on their own patch – it’s different to doing it at home – was great. Scot set us out in a particular way and everything clicked.”
Porteous believes there are plenty of similarities between playing for club and country.
He stressed: “We’ve still got a chance to qualify. We’ve watched back the games we slipped up on against Latvia and Andorra – it’s about ironing out silly mistakes. We did it against Andorra at home, we were really switched on.
“For me, it’s like at Hibs sometimes. We can beat the big teams but we slip up against the so-called wee teams. That’s something I personally need to work on because it’s a mentality thing. I hope it comes with more game-time.”