Ross Stewart has revealed his pride at receiving his first call-up for the Scotland national team.
The former Ross County striker has been in prolific form for Sunderland this season, hitting 22 goals and catching the eye of Steve Clarke.
A hamstring issue for Lyndon Dykes prompted the decision to bring Stewart into the fold. He joined Sunderland from County at the start of last year and is a popular figure on Wearside, earning the “Loch Ness Drogba” nickname from the club’s supporters.
He is in the frame to make his international debut in Thursday’s friendly against Poland, which will cap a remarkable journey for the towering striker.
“I received the call on Saturday night when we were on the team bus heading back from Lincoln,” Stewart told the Sunderland website.
“Alex Neil said to me that he had spoken to Steve Clarke and that Scotland were going to call me up, explaining that he had passed on my details and that I should receive a phone call shortly.
“About 15 minutes later, Steve called to tell me officially and it was probably the highlight of my career so far, as I don’t think there is anything better in football than representing your country.
“It isn’t really until this season that I’d ever given an international call-up any consideration – it’s one thing for your name to start being chucked about, but another for it to actually happen.
“It’s a very proud moment for me and for my family – my parents were in disbelief as well, but of course they were delighted, and they will be at Hampden Park for the game on Thursday.”
Stewart’s journey from playing junior football for Ayrshire sides Ardeer Thistle and Kilwinning Rangers to international football is one that catches the eye.
He then played lower-league football at Albion Rovers before joining St Mirren and County signed him to help spearhead their charge for Championship promotion in 2018.
“I’ve played at Hampden once before for Albion Rovers against Queens Park in League Two, it was only in front of a few hundred people, but it was still a great experience to play there at that stage of my career,” he added.
“On days like that in 2016, you always hope to be back one day playing for Scotland and its always at the back of your mind – you wonder, ‘what if’.
“Actually doing it will be surreal. It would be a dream come true.”