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Craig Levein <-auth Paul Kiddie auth-> Iain Brines
[D Griffin 40]
4 of 004 Andy Webster 69 ;Andy Kirk 78 L SPL H

Vogts praise for Webster


SCOTLAND boss Berti Vogts today hailed Hearts defender Andy Webster as one of the best young players in Europe.

The German was at Tynecastle on Saturday to watch Webster and Dundee United goalkeeper Paul Gallacher in action and left hugely impressed by the Gorgie star’s man-of-the-match performance in the Jambos’ 2-1 victory.

The 20-year-old produced his best display in a maroon jersey in front of the national coach as Hearts marked their return to league action after a four-week break with a vital three points in the race for Europe.

Webster was a tower of strength at the back in the absence of captain Steven Pressley through injury and capped a superb 90 minutes with the second-half equaliser for his first goal of the season; substitute Andy Kirk coming off the bench to grab the winner with just 12 minutes remaining.

The display of the former Arbroath centre half certainly made a lasting impression on Vogts, who for the first time had included the uncapped Webster in his squad for the recent Euro 2004 qualifying double-header against Iceland and Lithuania.

"I thought Andy Webster was the outstanding player on the pitch on Saturday," said Vogts.

"He did so well, not only in the defending but how he pushed his team forward, too.

"He had a great match and managed to score his first goal of the season.

"He is one of the best defenders I have seen for his age. I have watched a lot of good youngsters, particularly in Germany, but I would have to say that Andy is up there with Europe’s best 20-year-old’s."

Although the surprise inclusion in Vogts’ most recent squad, Webster found himself making his debut for the Scotland Under-21s against Iceland after dropping back into Rainer Bonhof’s team following a spate of call-offs.

Vogts insisted the Tynecastle stopper would benefit from that move, although he also claimed it will not be long before he is back in the senior set-up.

The German is convinced a bright future lies ahead for Webster, with Pressley central to his continuing development.

"Andy needed international experience and it was better he played with the under-21s then joined us in our squad," he said.

"I believe he enjoyed the experience of being with the national squad and brought back with him a lot of confidence. The future is open for him and over the next year I am sure he will be a full member of my squad.

"He is still just 20 years of age but has done very well so far. But he needs the experience and that is where Steven Pressley can be like a big brother to him.

"He has obviously learned a lot already from Stevie and he can continue to learn many positive things from him. The pair are a good combination for Hearts.

"We have a some friendlies coming up for Scotland and I am sure there is going to be many good opportunities for Andy. Not only is he a good lad but he has excellent character and always works hard in training. The future is bright for him."

Levein was also impressed at the manner in which Webster snuffed out the threat of United’s Charlie Miller at the weekend, the Gorgie chief believing the defender’s recent international recognition has done him the power of good.

He said: "Young players’ careers can move forward quite rapidly and at other times quite slowly. Getting a game regularly with the first team brings a big level of improvement but being recognised at international level also brings about rapid improvement. Charlie Miller is a quality player and I can’t remember him causing us any problems."

Meanwhile, John Knox grabbed a last-minute equaliser for Hearts in the under-21 clash with Dunfermline at Forthbank last night after Jim Hamilton had put the Pars ahead after a soft penalty award ten minutes from time.

Hearts: Gordon, Maybury, McLeod, Kaczan, Dunn, Simmons, Knox, Boyack, Kirk (Fox, 75), Weir (Kennedy, 75), Hamill (McMullan, 67).

Taken from the Scotsman

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