Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna today insisted securing a debut senior Scottish call-up is “massive” for his rising career.
The 21-year-old’s stellar ascent this season hit another high as he was named in Alex McLeish’s first squad.
Centre-back McKenna is joined in the 27-man line-up alongside fellow Dons Kenny McLean and Ryan Christie.
Scotland will face Costa Rica in a Hampden friendly on Friday, March 23, before playing Hungary in Budapest the following Tuesday.
McKenna’s superb form since breaking into the starting team last September saw Aberdeen reject four bids from Hull for the centre-back in January, with the final approach in excess of £1 million.
Having signed a contract extension until 2023 last week, McKenna registered another landmark with his call-up into McLeish’s international squad.
The Scotland Under-21 skipper said: “It is massive to get a Scotland call-up.
“I had just got back into the U21s squad after being out the Scotland set-up for a couple of years, so I’m just delighted to be there.”
McKenna is one of six new faces in national boss McLeish’s first Scotland squad.
Swansea striker Oli McBurnie, Hibs midfielder Dylan McGeouch, Hearts keeper Jon McLaughlin and Wolves full-back Barry Douglas have received debut call-ups.
McLeish had already confirmed Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay would be involved.
The Costa Rica game is 11 days away – but for now all McKenna’s focus is on seeing off Kilmarnock in the Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at Rugby Park tonight.
He said: “We have beaten Kilmarnock down there (Rugby Park) earlier in the season and also at Pittodrie.
“We have to take confidence from that so hopefully we can get into the semi-final.”
At stake at Rugby Park tonight is a slot at Hampden on the weekend of April 14 and 15.
McKenna will be at the national stadium before then for the friendly with World Cup 2018-bound Costa Rica.
However, he is determined to secure a quick-fire return to Hampden, a venue he has yet to play at.
“I was at Hampden with Ayr United when I was on loan but I was on the bench against Queens Park,” he added.
“It feels weird when you are at Hamdpen for the league as there is hardly anyone there and there is no atmosphere.
“I have travelled to Hampden with Aberdeen before but never got stripped so it was just a case of wishing the boys all the best in the dressing room.
“To get to Hampden and have the chance to play would be something special for me.”
McKenna may only have broken into the Dons first team six months ago but boss Derek McInnes is confident he is ready for the Scotland call.
He said: “Alex (McLeish) was at the game on Saturday and Scott was magnificent against Partick.
“Conor Sammon is strong, has know-how and experience, but Scott and Anthony O’Connor defended fantastically well.
“Scott is ready for this and if Alex decides to play him in the games he won’t let anyone down.
“The Scotland call-up is fantastic reward for Scott and it shows you how quickly things can change for a young player or any player, really.
“Scott has been getting better and better.
“If you see any young player established at any of the top clubs and playing week in week out, then it’s a huge benefit to get them into the international set-up as quickly as possible.”
Midfielder McLean has two caps from Scotland with the most recent in November’s 1-0 friendly loss to Holland at Pittodrie.
McLean signed a three-and-a-half year deal with Norwich City in January but was loaned back to Aberdeen until the end of the season.
On-loan Celtic attacker Christie earned a debut cap in starting, like McLean, in the loss to the Dutch.
McInnes urged all three Aberdeen players to make the most of the opportunity to impress McLeish as he looks to sculpt a squad for the looming Euro 2020 qualification bid.
McInnes said: “I am very pleased for Kenny, Ryan and Scott. It would be great if they could stay involved.
“I have said to the players any time they are away with the squad, whether you get on the pitch or not, just make sure you leave your mark.
“Let the manager know and recognise what you are in training. Train well and be in his eye.
“Hopefully those three players who are selected can do that and have a good week away with Alex and the team.
“And hopefully show that in the games.”