Caley Thistle defender Jamie McCart reckons his opportunity to play for Scotland under-21s this week may not have come had he not made the loan move from Celtic.
McCart was handed his debut by manager Scot Gemmill for Tuesday’s 0-0 friendly draw against Estonia at Paisley, with the 19-year-old playing the full 90 minutes.
Caley Jags manager Richie Foran has made McCart a regular in his side, handing him five starts since his deadline-day move from the Hoops in January.
McCart has already been taken aback by the leap in intensity from playing SPFL Development League football for the Parkhead club but the teenager feels he is thriving in the senior environment.
McCart, who could play for Inverness against Kilmarnock today, said: “I probably wouldn’t have got this chance had I not moved here because it is hard when you’re playing under-20s football. There’s not that same pressure. The standard at first-team level is a lot higher.
“Playing at places like Tynecastle and against Rangers, the intensity has jumped up massively. Obviously, being in the relegation struggle as well has its own demands.
“That’s the main difference. If you go into under-20s games, it is about development. There’s no pressure, win or lose, play well or play badly.
“Every game here in the top division is a pressure game. We’re always looking to get the win. I enjoy that. I try to keep improving. It is only making me a better player, a better person.”
McCart reckons more could be done to narrow the gap between youth and senior football in Scotland, and says he has been forced to adapt his style of play.
He added: “There could be more of a bridge between the levels. It’s quite a big jump. I noticed that myself in terms of intensity and standard.
“If you have the mentality to handle it, if you’re strong enough mentally, you can come in and cope with it, but it is tough.
“People could fold under that pressure. But if they have the right mentality and are willing to work hard, embrace the change, it can make the difference.
“I came from the under-20s, having all of the ball and constantly playing it out from the back under little pressure playing for Celtic, the best team in it.
“Then I was coming into a relegation tussle with all the pressures that entails. I’ve just taken that in my stride, worked hard and tried to learn every day.
“The manager has helped me. I’ve had to change what I do on the ball but I think that’s benefited me because I needed to develop that side of my game – the defensive aggression under pressure.
“At Celtic, you wouldn’t get that pressure on the back four. I changed my style but it’s about the team – anything individually comes after that.”