FORMER Berwick player Danny Swanson was this week on the verge of making his international breakthrough into the Scotland team.
Swanson, who now plays for Dundee United in the SPL, was called up to the full Scotland squad for the first time for the European qualifiers against Liechtenstein and world champions Spain.
The midfielder failed to make the team or the bench for the Scots’ 1-0 win in Vaduz on Saturday and Alicante on Tuesday, but for the 24 year-old it was still a major learning curve.
Swanson, who played at Shielfield under John Coughlin, was transferred to Tannadice in 2008 in a £40,000 deal by former United manager Craig Levein, who is now the national coach.
Swanson himself has admitted the call-up came as ‘a total surprise,’ as he has only just returned to the game after a spell out through injury.
He has spent the last year troubled with hamstring and back injuries. But stand-out performances against Rangers and Hibs saw the former Berwick midfielder named in the initial 28-man line-up.
“I didn’t think I was going to be in,” he said. “I felt I might have a chance if anyone got injured but I wasn’t expecting it.
“It’s amazing. It’s a huge turnaround because not long ago I wasn’t playing and I was even wondering if I would ever play again.
“I had my injury and couldn’t get to the bottom of it but it’s away now. It’s a massive confidence boost to know the Scotland manager has seen enough in me to think I’m worthy of a place in the squad.
“Getting into the Scotland squad will do my self-belief loads of good.
“It’s a great feeling and the stuff of dreams really.
“When you are a boy playing at school you are desperate to play for your country. And when you start in the lower leagues you feel a million miles away from it.
“This hopefully shows boys starting out that you can do it.
“Obviously making it to the team is my aim but the way I am looking at it right now is I just have to go in there and do well in the training.
“It is training with the squad I am looking forward to most at the moment.”
When he first moved to the Tangerines Swanson was hailed by Levein as the most talented player he’d ever worked with.
A number of clubs were tracking him, but at only 5ft 6in his stature was seen as a major drawback - that and the fact he was born with a hole in the heart.
But since then he has worked hard to baulk himself up and prove the critics wrong.
“I have to thank the Dundee United manager Peter Houston as well because he has stood by me when I wasn’t fit and he’s given me my chance” he said. “He has been telling me to stop being so hard on myself and I’m trying to do that.”
John Coughlin insists he always knew Swanson could go on to become a future Scotland internationalist - even though others thought he was too small to make it past the amateur game.
It was Coughlin who handed the midfielder his first opportunity in senior football with Berwick.
He also helped him in his move to Tannadice, at a time when the player didn’t have an agent to represnet him.
Coughlin also reckons Swanson has all the ability required to prove Levein right to include him in his squad.
He said: “It was great for me to see Danny getting a call-up because I don’t think anybody else would have given him a chance of moving to a senior club at that time.
“He had been overlooked because of his size and I’ve not really seen much credit given to Berwick for taking a chance on him. It’s all been about Dundee United.
“I know one or two members of his family and they bemoaned the fact that clubs, especially Hibs, had constantly overlooked him.
“But, for me, it was all about ability. He’s a fantastic player, completely off the cuff, although he missed a lot of games for us because he needed to learn that he had to play as part of a team.
“That’s Scottish football. We like them to be 6’2’’ and built like the proverbial brick house instead of the smaller individual like Danny.
“But if you see Danny playing football you don’t have to be the manager of Dundee United or Scotland to know he has fantastic talent.
“Making the transition from part-time football to training more than two days a week and playing and working with better players was always going to benefit him.
“And if anybody can help him become an international player now it will be Craig Levein and Peter Houston because they know what he’s like and how to get the best out of him.
“But we undoubtedly take pride in seeing his progress since we gave him a chance at Berwick.”