Steve Clarke urged to convince Matt Targett to switch allegiance BACK to Scotland

Former Rangers boss Graeme Murty believes Steve Clarke will have pulled off a major coup if he coaxes defender Matt Targett to switch allegiance back to Scotland.

Aston Villa’s Targett, currently on loan at Newcastle, is being monitored ahead of the crucial series of internationals in June as the Scotland manager seeks cover at full-back for the injured Kieran Tierney and Nathan Patterson.

The 26-year-old is a ready-made Premier League talent in top form as he continues to help Eddie Howe’s Magpies ease away from relegation trouble.

Newcastle’s Matt Targett is being closely monitored by Scotland ahead of Ukraine semi-final

Scotland boss Steve Clarke (right) has been urged to put in a call to try and convince Targett

Scotland boss Steve Clarke (right) has been urged to put in a call to try and convince Targett

Ex-Ibrox manager Murty is a huge admirer after coaching Targett at Southampton – and says the defender would be a superb addition to Scotland’s already outstanding cast of left-backs.

Targett made two Scotland Under-19s appearances nine years ago before featuring for England up to Under-21s level and has been in the frame for a senior call-up from Gareth Southgate for over a year.

Now Murty reckons Targett, who qualifies for Scotland through his grandmother, has his best years ahead of him in a dark blue jersey.

‘If Scotland managed to get him then, wow! That would be an incredible group of left-backs,’ he said. 

‘Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Aaron Hickey and him. That would be a very strong cohort of talent for the national team to have in a position.

Targett played for Scotland's Under-19s before he switched allegiance to play for England U21

Targett played for Scotland’s Under-19s before he switched allegiance to play for England U21

‘I don’t think you can have too many good players. Solid Premier League defenders give Scotland a great foundation for the next few years. The more the merrier.

‘Matt has taken all the steps that you hoped for. You look at him now playing Premier League and I personally don’t think he looks the finished article yet.

‘There’s actually more to come from him, so it would be exciting if that improvement is in Scotland colours.’

Targett has more in common with Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell, says Murty, than the left back riches currently available to Clarke.

‘I think anyone who can play in the Premier League has a level of technicality that’s very high,’ he said. ‘Matt’s main attributes are his receiving and releasing the ball, his composure in possession. What a wonderful left foot he’s got.

‘He’s more like a Chilwell from England. Robertson and Tierney are more renowned for their athleticism and progressing the game.

‘Matt was just coming through the junior ranks when I first coached at Southampton. When you saw him play, his quality was outstanding.

Tierney has had an operation after his season was ended prematurely

Patterson is a rising star for club and country but will not be fit enough to face Ukraine in June

Scotland are facing a left back crisis when they take on Ukraine with Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney (left) and Everton’s Nathan Patterson (right) both ruled out of the match through injury

‘As a young lad, he had a good frame, was quick, athletic and with excellent final-third quality. So, the modern full-back. You just hope he fulfils his athletic potential so he can manage the load of being a Premier League athlete.’

Murty also hopes Targett isn’t put off by the quality of international player already in his position with Scotland.

Tierney and Patterson are ruled out for the post-season series of fixtures, which starts against Ukraine on June 1.

Murty, capped four times by Scotland, said: ‘I would put the question to him, see what he says. I don’t think anyone should try and second guess what a player is going to say.

‘I’d say: “We want you, you’ve got the possibility, what do you want to do?” I don’t think Scotland would lose anything by asking.’

Targett made his Southampton debut as a teenager in season 2014-15. He enjoyed a successful loan season with Fulham when they were promoted via the Championship play-offs in 2018 then Villa paid £12m for him in the summer of 2019 and he was voted their Players’ Player of the Year last term.

Targett is highly thought of and ex-Rangers boss Graeme Murty wants Scotland to land him

Targett is highly thought of and ex-Rangers boss Graeme Murty wants Scotland to land him

Lucas Digne was preferred by Steven Gerrard in mid-season, but Targett has played every minute for Newcastle – other than against his parent club – since switching on loan in January. There is understood to be an option for a £15m permanent deal.

‘Individual player circumstances change from moment to moment,’ said Murty. ‘If playing for Eddie Howe will serve his career well, then he’s made the right choice.

‘Matt has been excellent and part of a successful group who are playing well and full of confidence.’

Meanwhile, Targett’s Newcastle team-mate Ryan Fraser is a major doubt for Scotland’s clash with Ukraine after the winger picked up a hamstring injury against Wolves earlier this month.