Craig Sives isn’t sure what to expect upon his return to Tynecastle this Sunday.
The former Hearts defender, who graduated from the club’s youth academy, now of Livingston, hasn’t stepped foot on the hallowed turf since his exit in 2009.
Spells in Ireland with Shamrock Rovers and slightly further afield in Australia with Melbourne-based outfit Hume City followed his departure from Gorgie six years ago.
But for Sives, an avid Hearts supporter who has since returned to his old stomping ground as a fan, the opportunity to come face to face with his boyhood heroes is a proposition that is clouded by obscurity.
“I don’t actually know how and what I’ll be feeling,” the 28-year-old admitted. “I’ve pretty much been out the country since I left, so this is my first time back in Scottish football since 2009. I’m looking forward to going back massively and that’s why you play football to go and play at these stadiums. Being a former season-ticket holder, I know what to expect with the crowd so it will be a good experience. I’ve just got to put that I am a Hearts fan to the back of my mind.
“I am a Livingston player and I want three points for ourselves, but firstly, I just hope I am selected to play and then we’ll take it from there.
“It’s good to see Hearts doing well now and I’m pretty sure they’ll be back in the Premiership next year where they belong – along with Hibs and Rangers as well. It’s a unique league this year that’s for sure.”
Sives has had to bide his time under manager John McGlynn, but has started the Lions’ previous four outings after team-mate Declan Gallagher, who had started the Championship opener against Hibs in central defence alongside Callum Fordyce, was ruled out until Christmas with a grade two injury to his medial ligament in his knee.
“I think I’ve done all right,” Sives explained. “It’s been unfortunate for Declan as he was playing really well. I played the first two cup games of the season, but then obviously the suspension kicked in from last season for the match against Hibs.
“So the team have been doing great and the manager hasn’t felt the need to change much unless it’s been forced upon him. Declan is a big loss, but Simon Mensing has started back at training so he’ll come into the gaffer’s plans in the next few weeks. I’ve just got to go out and do the best I can.”
The former Firrhill High pupil was pitched against one of the country’s most prolific goalscorers in Adam Rooney on Tuesday night – Livi crashing to a 4-0 defeat at Pittodrie in the third round of the League Cup in what was a real learning curve by the player’s own admission.
He said: “Rooney’s goals just showed the quality they have in their team. Both Rooney and [David] Goodwillie’s movement was really good, where they were constantly making runs, even if they didn’t have the ball, so it was non-stop for the whole game.
“But, outwith the goals, I thought we defended relatively well and kept it in front of us. It was a good experience to test yourself against those calibre of players.
“We’ve put Tuesday to bed as we weren’t really expected to take anything. That doesn’t mean we didn’t go up there to try and win the game, but it was always going to be difficult. The league is our bread and butter, so we’re just focusing on taking three points off Hearts on Sunday.
“The play-offs is our aim. We set targets at the start of the season and that was one of them. You’d expect the big three to occupy the top spots, so everyone else will be pushing for that fourth position and there’s no reason why we can’t.
“It’s down to us to do the business on a Saturday and rack up as many points as we can.”