ROSS STEWART has been full of praise about the influence that ex-Rangers and current striking partner Jermain Defoe has had since his arrival at Sunderland in January.

Stewart earned his first Scotland call up on Monday afternoon, after notching a remarkable 22 goals this season in League One.

And the 25-year-old has been rewarded as he has joined up with Steve Clarke’s squad as they prepare to face Poland at Hampden on Thursday, before playing against either Wales or Austria away from home next Tuesday.

Defoe made a heroic return to Wearside on deadline day after falling out at favour at Rangers under Steven Gerrard. 

Former Hamilton manager Alex Neil took over the reins at Sunderland from Lee Johnson just over a week after and has deployed both Defoe and Stewart to lead the line for the Black Cats. 

Speaking to the Daily Record, Stewart said: “JD and I have got on really well since he has come in. We have been quite close.

“It is good to pick his brain on different things and just to watch him train every day is great because you learn so much from him.

“He has done it throughout his career and so when he did come in I knew it was such a good opportunity for me to learn from him and to add to my own game, knowing he has been there and done it at the highest level.

"He has helped me so much. He is always telling me to be selfish, follow things in and get in positions where you can score.

“All the boys in the dressing room look up to him. He is also still in great shape.

On earning his first international call up for Scotland, he continued: “If I got my chance with Scotland and managed to score then that would be an absolute dream come true.

“It will be a lot different on Thursday. The stadium will be near full and I know the standard of the game will be a lot better as well.”