Luke Southwood became a World Cup winner with England U20s in South Korea – but the Hamilton keeper insists he’s hit the biggest stage of his career in South Lanarkshire.
And it doesn’t come any larger than this afternoon’s basement battle with Hearts at a volatile Tynecastle.
Southwood, on loan at Accies from Reading, was kept in reserve as the Three Lions became world champions in 2017.
Southwood said: “It’s massive in terms of what it means to the club. These are some of the biggest stages I’ve ever played in and it’s a massive game on Saturday.
“Eleventh playing twelfth is a big game and it’s something I need to rise to.
“I knew coming here that Accies have always been down in the dogfight and hopefully we can push out of it.
“The gaffer has said we’ve got 12 cup finals to go and it’s not all going to be sorted in a week or two.
“We’ve got time but we need to start putting in the performances and getting three points sooner rather than later.
“It’s easy to look and say we’re on a losing run but we have played three or four of the really top teams in this league.
“It’s just been unfortunate the way the fixtures have come.
“We’ve had good performances against Celtic and Rangers for periods of the game.
“So if we can recreate that playing against the teams, like Hearts and the others round about us as we did at St Mirren, then we’ll start picking up points and wins.
“It’s not easy to be in this situation, under pressure and what it means to the club and everyone around the club.
“We’ve all got to rise to it and be able to deal with it.
“Having been here before as a club a lot of the players here will know what this is about, know what’s needed and know what they did previously to get ourselves out of this situation. So it could definitely be a benefit.”
The 22-year-old was on the bench when Accies drew 2-2 at Tynecastle earlier in the season but had forced his way into the starting XI for the festive fixture between the two which Rice’s side won 2-1.
And he is braced for a stormy reception in Gorgie this afternoon – something he relishes.
“When I was on the bench I thought how good the atmosphere was and how good it would be to play in,” he said.
“We’ve got to try to use it in our favour because if we can get on top then the fans could get on top of their team. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage.
“You notice the atmosphere, you don’t think about it at the time but you can feel a change in the environment on the pitch and you can get a lift and they could go a bit more in their shell.”
Accies haven’t won at Tynecastle since 1977 and Southwood knows there would be no better time to blow that stat apart.
“I didn’t know we hadn’t won there since then,” he said. “It’s a massive game and hopefully we can get the three points and get rid of that statistic. That would be great for us.
“After the losses to Aberdeen and Rangers it’s easy to be negative but we’ve been here before, we’re a point better off than last season and survived last season.
“We’ve just got to concentrate on that and not panic. It’s easy to panic in this situation and feel it’s going downhill but if we stay positive and do what Accies have done previously then we’ll be fine.”
Skipper Brian Easton became the latest casualty of Accies injury curse in the 3-1 defeat to Aberdeen when he dislocated his shoulder. Hamilton were already without Mickel Miller, George Oakley and Andy Dales with hamstring injuries while Steve Davies has been struggling with a calf problem.
Southwood added: ““Losing Easty was a massive blow, he’s a massive player for us and a massive character but now it’s an opportunity for other players to step up and show what they’ve got, as a character and as a footballer.”