Hearts star Lee Wallace ready to fight for his Scotland chance all over again

HAVING taken long enough to persuade George Burley that he merited a Scotland cap, Lee Wallace will have to start afresh following the appointment of Craig Levein as national coach.

The Hearts full-back must convince the new figurehead that he should be involved in March's friendly against Czech Republic, but to do so he feels he must first improve significantly at club level.

It took Burley 21 months to recognise Wallace as a potential internationalist, despite some imperious displays at left-back for Hearts.

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After being overlooked for everyone from Kirk Broadfoot to Danny Fox, he was called up as an injury replacement for last October's friendly defeat in Japan and played the full 90 minutes. He also appeared as a second-half substitute in the 4-0 annihilation by Wales the following month, Burley's last match in charge of Scotland.

Levein's arrival from Dundee United should bring brighter prospects for the 22-year-old. It was, after all, Levein who authorised Wallace's professional contract whilst manager of Hearts in 2004. But the player will not rest on his established reputation as arguably the SPL's most accomplished left-back.

He bemoaned a lack of consistency this season, albeit largely due to injuries, and stressed that, unless he ups his game, he cannot expect Levein, pictured, to call on him for Scotland.

"With the new manager being appointed, it's about capturing a new eye," said Wallace. "Your form at club level can only determine whether you'll be brought into the squad. There is a friendly coming up so it's about impressing for your club and catching the eye.

"Craig will know me. He was the manager here when I signed. I was a wee bit young and we didn't get much time together before he moved on. With him working in the Scottish league at Dundee United, he will have seen me play. At the end of the day, it's up to him. On a personal level, I want to play well, perform and catch his eye.

"I haven't captured the form of last year. I've done okay in bits and bobs but I still have to try and reproduce the form of last season. The confidence is still there, even when things aren't going quite right. It's nothing too bad, I'm just trying to get that form of last season back.

"Individuals can play well when the team isn't doing so well. The most important thing is for the team to come as one again and keep this unbeaten run in the league going." Wallace also issued some encouraging news for Hearts supporters when he revealed there have been no attempts to lure him from Tynecastle during this transfer window.

"I've not heard anything, just rumours from the paper or stories from friends," he continued. "Folk have been asking me but I'm a Hearts player. I come in and train for Hearts and play for Hearts at the weekend. That's the way I see it at the moment."

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Hearts will attempt to overcome the disappointment of last weekend's Scottish Cup elimination today when St Mirren visit Tynecastle on league business. Wallace is expected to return to the team after missing the tie at Pittodrie with a heel injury.

"We suffered a setback last week," he said. "It's hard going up to Aberdeen for any opponent, everyone has seen that in recent years with the record we have up there. Hopefully it's just a blip.

"We still have the league and another cup to set our sights on. The Scottish Cup is a massive competition. This will be the first season since I came through that I haven't played in the Scottish Cup. It's disappointing for me and everyone else that we're out the cup. The only thing you can do as a professional is try to turn it round and concentrate on the things you can achieve.

"St Mirren have been doing well of late but if we play to the best of our ability we should be beating teams like them. It's just a case of going out and putting everything right."

With Andy Driver no nearer a first-team return, Wallace is happy to assume more attacking responsibility to compensate for the Englishman's prolonged injury absence.

"He's been a big miss. We do have that connection and it showed last year. With the obstacles and stumbling blocks you get in football you have to adapt.

"Whoever is playing in front of me has to go in there and do their best. Part and parcel of your job as a left-back or right-back is going forward. That's the way I play and I'm looking for more positive performances."