Midfielder Lewis Ferguson is grateful to Scotland boss Steve Clarke for retaining faith in him despite Aberdeen’s crash in form.
The 22-year-old earned a debut Scotland cap when coming off the bench in the 2-0 World Cup qualifier loss to Denmark last month.
He doubled his cap tally days later as a substitute in the 1-0 Group F defeat of Austria.
Ferguson admits he was concerned Aberdeen’s winless slump could cost him selection in Clarke’s squad for the upcoming qualifiers.
Aberdeen have failed to win in nine games in all competitions.
However Ferguson, who netted in the 2-1 loss to Celtic, retained his spot in the squad for the qualifiers against Israel at Hampden on Saturday and Faroe Islands away on Tuesday.
Ferguson said: “It is difficult when we’re not getting results.
“I just have to give everything and perform to the best level so that if the manager of Scotland is watching he can see that.
“It’s hard and it was in the back of my mind so I’m thankful that I’m back in the squad and back involved.
“It’s brilliant to be back in the squad – a great feeling.”
A taste… now hungry for more caps
Capped 11 times at U21 level Ferguson, the 2019-20 SFWA Young Player of the Year, made his senior debut when coming off the bench to replace Billy Gilmour in the 89th minute against runaway group leaders Denmark in Copenhagen.
🔴 The Red Army enjoyed that one!
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) October 3, 2021
Ferguson admits it was a dream come true to represent his country.
Six days later he again replaced Chelsea star Gilmour, on loan at Norwich City, in the pivotal defeat of Austria and played a key role in seeing out the win.
Now that he has tasted Scotland action Ferguson is hungry for more.
He said: “Those cameos whetted my appetite, it’s everyone’s dream to play for your country.
“You get a wee taste of it and you want more.
“Hopefully I can get more minutes.
“Now I am in the fold, I need to keep it going and hopefully cement my place in the squad for the future.”
Ferguson’s World Cup qualification dream
Scotland ended a 23 year major tournament drought when qualifying for this summer’s Euro 2020 finals.
Steve Clarke’s side failed to progress from the group having drawn with England at Wembley and losing to Czech Republic and Croatia at Hampden.
The bid to secure back to back qualifications for a major tournament remains very much alive.
The Scots occupy second spot in Group F and defeating Israel would put them in pole position to secure a playoff for the World Cup 2022 in Qatar next winter.
We want to get to every tournament so we need to keep the momentum going now.”
Lewis Ferguson, Scotland and Aberdeen midfielder
Should they beat Israel victories over minnows Moldova and the Faroe Islands in the next two games, both away, would then be enough to secure a play-off spot in March.
That would be confirmed before facing group F leaders Denmark at home in the final qualifier next month.
Ferguson said: “We want to get to every tournament so we need to keep the momentum going now.
“The game against Israel is absolutely massive.
“We had good results in the last camp so we need to continue that and keep it going.”
Fitting in with English top flight stars
Ferguson has met up with a Scotland squad that includes five midfielders playing in the English top flight – Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Billy Gilmour (Chelsea, on loan at Norwich), Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), John McGinn (Aston Villa) and former Aberdeen midfielder Kenny McLean (Norwich).
Aberdeen knocked back an offer of under £2m from Premier League Watford in May this year for the midfielder.
Following that rejection Ferguson handed in a transfer request which was rejected by Aberdeen.
That has not detracted from the midfielder’s performances this season and Ferguson was rewarded with a call up and debut cap.
On first meeting up with those Premier League stars there was no sense of trepidation or nerves from the Aberdeen midfielder.
He said: “I loved it the last time, which was my first time being involved with those guys.
“I already knew half of them already and had played against a lot of them from playing against each other.
“I know David Turnbull, we are good mates, Billy Gilmour, Nathan Patterson – I know all of them from the U21s.
“So it wasn’t daunting joining up, everyone made me feel really welcome.
“It was great and obviously we got some good results and I got some minutes on the pitch.
“I’m really glad to be involved again. I’m in good company with loads of good players.”
Scotland boss’ trust in Aberdeen midfielder
Ferguson’s performance in the 1-0 defeat of higher seeded Austria in Vienna was more than a cameo.
He played a vital role in seeing out a win that swung the momentum towards Scotland in the race to finish runners-up behind inevitable group winners Denmark.
Ferguson believes being taken on when the stakes were so high with Austria pushing for an equaliser shows the faith boss Clarke has in him.
He said: “To be involved in two big games against two really good opponents was good.
“Getting on away to Austria when you are 1-0 up in the last five minutes, showed me that the manager has a real trust in me.
“I rarely get nervous but I knew we had a job to do.
“It’s weird going on at 1-0 so late in the game because all you think is ‘don’t lose a goal’.
“I was told to go on, buy fouls and try to get us up the pitch as much as I could.
“So even though it was just for five minutes, I got a few touches and it was brilliant to be involved in that sort of result.”
Danger of familiar opponents Israel
Remarkably Saturday’s showdown will be the seventh time Scotland have faced Israel competitively in the last three years.
There have been four meetings in the Nations League, yielding one win, two losses and a draw.
The Scots also overcame Israel in a penalty shoot-out in the Euro 2020 play-off semi-finals at Hamdpen.
Scotland drew 1-1 in Israel in a Group F World Cup qualifier in March.
Ferguson said: “It feels like Scotland have played Israel about 10 times in the past couple of years.
“They are a really tough team. I think they are better than a lot of people think they are.
“They are underrated.”