Angus Beith is adamant he can seize his big chance to become a Hearts first-team player this season after injury problems last term almost killed his dream.
The highly-rated 20-year-old earned a year-long contract extension despite spending much of the last campaign on the sidelines and being too old to be considered a development player this season.
He has been challenged by head coach Robbie Neilson to force his way into the central-midfield mix, alongside Prince Buaben, Arnaud Djoum, Morgaro Gomis, Don Cowie and Perry Kitchen.
“I see myself as a first-team player now,” Beith told the Evening News. “I’ve got to have that mindset and believe I can push and play in the first team. I’m not an under-20 any more, so there’s an onus on me to prove I can play in the first team.
“This is a big time for me in terms of trying to impress the coaches. There are a lot of midfielders here, so there’s huge competition, but if I keep my head down, hopefully things can happen for me. All I can do is work hard and try and impress. I feel like I’ve been doing well in pre-season so far. It’s been great to be involved but I just need to keep working hard.”
Beith’s only first-team outing so far came in a Petrofac Cup defeat by Livingston two years ago. Hearts had hoped to introduce him more prominently to the first team last season but his campaign was virtually written off by injury.
“I was injured when I came back for pre-season last summer and was injured for the majority of last season. I had an operation last summer and then had about five months out after that. It was a frustrating time.
“Hopefully that’s behind me now and I can push on and get into the first team. I got five games out on loan at Stenhousemuir towards the end of last season and I felt that helped move me on. I had no pre-season at all last season, so I’m looking to get a full pre-season under my belt.”
Beith featured in both friendlies against TNS and Aberdeen in St Andrews last week. “Pre-season’s been really enjoyable,” he said. “We had good facilities at St Andrews. There were a few tough days but that’s what you expect in pre-season. We’re looking good going into the Europa League.”