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Steven Naismith believes Stephen Kingsley can still earn more Scotland caps even though the on-form defender did not get the nod to join three of his Hearts team-mates in the latest squad.

Free-scoring captain Lawrence Shankland plus goalkeepers Zander Clark and Craig Gordon were included in Steve Clarke’s 25-man pool for the national team’s pre-European Championship friendly double-header against Netherlands and Northern Ireland later this month.

Kingsley, who won the last of his two caps against Ukraine in September 2022, was also understood to have been in the thoughts of the Scotland boss after returning to his best form at Tynecastle this term.

However, the prospects of the 29-year-old former Swansea and Hull defender – who can play at centre-back or left-back – going to Germany this summer appear slim after he did not make the squad announced earlier this week, with Kieran Tierney, Andy Robertson, Liam Cooper and Scott McKenna the left-sided options preferred by Clarke.

“The fact he’s being talked about as being part of the national set-up, he can be proud of that,” said Hearts boss Naismith.

“You never know what can happen. He’s been in the set-up not so long ago after a long period out, and that’s what he’ll strive for.

“The whole Scotland squad has gone up a few notches so he can take credit from making the last squad he did (in 2022) because the competition at that point was really good.

“Yes, there’s a lot of left-sided players but that versatility Stephen’s got probably puts him in a slightly different bracket. It will be hard work for him to make the Euros squad but he will never give up.

Despite his international omission, Naismith has been hugely impressed with the way Kingsley has asserted himself as one of Hearts’ key men since arriving in 2020 after injuries derailed his career down south following his first Scotland cap in 2016.

“I’d argue he’s in the running for our club player of the year,” said Naismith. “He’s consistent, he’s the ultimate professional and he’s somebody who has had to work really hard in the last five years because of the injuries he’s come through.

“I played with him in the national set-up and to go from how promising that part of his career was to then have such a long period out, your career will go one way or the other so he’s worked really hard to maximise himself.

“He probably came to Hearts at a time when he could have been at a higher level but his (injury) history counted against him. He’s come in here and the fit has been brilliant.

“He’s a leader, he’s versatile and he’s got real quality. I think he’s been one of our best players this season.

“The biggest thing for him is that he’s enjoying everything at the moment, he’s enjoying his football and where he sits within the squad. He’s a big help for me personally.”