In search of the next great Scottish central defender

By Jonathan SutherlandBBC Scotland
Where are the great Scottish defenders?

In the 1980s Scotland internationals had big reputations, big moustaches, and big-time central defenders were almost taken for granted.

But just like moustaches, the notion of the great Scottish central defender has rather fallen out of fashion.

These Scottish pillars of rock once graced European finals for their clubs. These days the top Scottish central defenders are found slightly further down the football food chain.

Back in the day, central defender Willie Miller not only had a resplendent moustache, he also had to fight his way past football legends simply to get a game for the national team.

"I can only reflect on when I was trying to break into the international team and the type of player that was in front of me," Miller recalls.

"We don't have that quality of player now, that's for sure.

"I got my debut when Billy Bremner didn't turn up. He was playing in the European Cup final against Bayern Munich for Leeds United."

A lack of top quality players

Miller went on to amass 65 caps and won European trophies himself. He can reel off a host of top players he had to jostle with just for a place in the Scotland starting 11. They all played for top clubs scrapping it out for European silverware.

For Miller, in 2016 the main issue when it comes to reaching major international tournaments remains player development.

"We have got a problem. It is a big problem," he says.

"How we solve it is a long and complicated question. But I do think we need to get our act in order, particularly at the development level and we need to encourage young players to come through of the right stature and the right standing in the hope that in the future it will get better.

"There definitely seems to be a lack of top quality players coming through and I think the SFA and the clubs have to take responsibility for that."

Is Souttar the next great Scottish centre-half?

Defence is a particular area of concern for Miller, but he is a fan of John Souttar. Now 19 years of age, Souttar has been a big prospect ever since he came through the ranks at Dundee United, with Ryan Gauld, Andy Robertson et al.

Now at Hearts, the primary objective has been toughening him up with plenty of gym work.

"Since I have come to Hearts it has been drilled into me that defenders have got to be aggressive, have to be physical," Souttar says.

John Souttar
Hearts defender John Souttar has been tipped to go far in the game

"I agree with that as well, because if you look at the top centre-halves in the world the first thing they do is match the striker physically."

Souttar was always backed at Dundee United by his manager there, Jackie McNamara, despite some mistakes along the way. McNamara and his assistants were convinced that the crop of talented youngsters at the club could reach the very top of the game.

So, can Souttar join the ranks of Miller, Alex McLeish, Dave Narey and Alan Hansen and develop into a world class centre-half?

"Yes. I have got self-confidence, I think I can," says the Hearts defender. "I have got a lot to learn, there is no doubt about that.

"I always take everything in, what everyone says to me. I learn all the time. I am always open to ideas.

"Don't get me wrong - I'm nowhere near it just now, obviously.

"But I think one day it is the aim, and hopefully I can do that."

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