Lawrence Shankland is hoping to end his “really strong season” by helping Scotland take another big stride towards Euro 2024.
The 27-year-old has enjoyed arguably the best campaign of his career as he scored 28 goals and earned the captaincy in his first year at Hearts, whom he joined last summer from Belgian club Beerschot.
Shankland’s form at Tynecastle earned him a first Scotland cap for two and a half years in the victory over Spain in March, and he has retained his place in the squad for this month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers away to Norway and at home to Georgia.
“When you get to the end of a season you get the chance to look back and assess it,” Shankland told the Scottish Football Association.
“For me, it was a really strong season. My performances throughout the season were to a really high standard and I was really happy with them.
“The number of goals I managed to chip in with was great. It was my first season at Hearts as well so it was good to get off to a good start. The captaincy was an opportunity that I probably didn’t expect when I first went to Hearts but when it was offered to me I was keen to take on that role.
“I felt it was something that would improve my all-round game, improve me as a person, and I felt I took it in my stride and handled it really well. It’s been a huge learning opportunity for me and hopefully it stands me in good stead for the future.”
Shankland has won five Scotland caps but he admits such a scenario would have been a pipe dream when he found himself without a club and pondering getting a job away from football when he was released by Aberdeen in 2017. He eventually joined Ayr and set about rebuilding his career.
“There’s been a lot of rejections along the way but it comes down to hard work and determination really,” he said, reflecting on his rise. “You have your end goals and what you want to achieve in your career.
“There have been times when I couldn’t have dreamed of getting a Scotland cap. But you just need to knuckle down and if you keep working hard, things pay off and you get these opportunities.
“I’ve taken most of them first time and did well at most of the clubs I’ve been at. It has been a bit of an up-and-down journey but I’ve worked hard and I feel like I deserve what’s come my way.”
The Scotland squad are currently at a training camp in Spain gearing up for their showdown with Norway in Oslo a week on Saturday.
Steve Clarke’s side sit top of their qualifying section after winning their opening two matches and know that a good share of points from their two outings this month will leave them firmly on course for the finals in Germany next summer.
“It’s been good to meet up and get everybody back together,” said Shankland.
“The wee break in between (the end of the club season) gives us a bit of time to do a training camp and I think that’s important for us before we go into the game week next week.
“The training’s been good and the weather’s been nice. The last two games we had really good results and we’ve given ourselves a really good opportunity going into these two games. If we get positive results we could be in a really good position.”