Angus Beith takes his work at Riccarton very seriously. “I’ll just be about ten minutes, I’ve got a few jobs I have to get done first.”
He rushes off down the corridor towards the Hearts changing rooms, where he must fill water bottles and clean boots before training, including those of head coach Robbie Neilson.
The 19-year-old is serving a traditional footballing apprenticeship and sees it as a vital part of his development. There is no place at Riccarton for teens swishing about in flip flops all day thinking they’ve already made the grade. Beith and his youth-team colleagues each have daily tasks, including sweeping dressing rooms, laying out training kit and hauling mannequins in and out of storage cupboards.
Duties fulfilled for the day, the midfielder arrives for his first interview since recovering from a summer hip operation. “I had to make sure all my boots were done, plus my job is the water,” he says. “I need to get all the first-team water bottles filled and number them all. Every boy will tell you they don’t enjoy the jobs but you have to do it and just get it done. It’s an important part of your football upbringing.
“I clean Morgaro Gomis’ boots and the manager’s. I need to make sure they’re crystal clean every day. Robbie is a relaxed guy around the place, although obviously it’s different on the training pitch.”
Beith mirrors Neilson’s calm nature but at the back of his mind he knows the clock is ticking. His contract expires at the end of the season and he is desperate to earn a new one. For him, that will likely mean another loan move similar to last season’s seven-month stint at Stirling Albion.
“I’m out of contract so, first and foremost, that’s my aim. I’m trying to keep impressing the coaches and win myself another contract,” he explains. “Whether that’s playing for the Under-20s or going out on loan, I think it’s probably best at my age to go out on loan and get games.
“If you look at the midfield at the moment, it’s really strong. I’m looking to get out on loan and try to impress that way. Stirling Albion brought me on leaps and bounds, playing against men in an environment where you need to win games. That really helps your development and I enjoyed it massively. Stuart McLaren, the manager, was a massive help to me.”
Long-term, he has designs on a first-team place at Hearts, the club he has served since the age of nine. His only senior appearance to date came in last season’s Petrofac Training Cup defeat at Livingston. Nonetheless, he is highly regarded as a cultured central midfielder who is able to dictate play with a talented left foot.
“I’m confident I can do that. I feel, if I get another contract, that I can force my way into the first team here. I’ve got belief in myself to do it. Robbie said to me when I got my injury just to get my head down, work hard and I’d be okay. He said I had do that and put the work in to get back fit. He’s been speaking to me in little bits and pieces throughout it. At the end of the day, I need to prove I can play at first-team level.”
Beith has plenty to occupy him for the moment as he edges gradually towards full fitness after summer surgery. He scored for Hearts Under-20s in Monday night’s 3-0 win over Dundee. If nothing else, his resilience and tenacity to battle back from injury will have impressed Neilson and the rest of the Hearts management team.
The youngster first felt his hip uncomfortable as far back as February but played through the pain for Stirling. Pre-season plans to infiltrate the Hearts first-team were destroyed when medical staff confirmed he needed an operation. It has been an arduous journey to get fit again, not helped by having to watch fellow teenagers like Sean McKirdy and Callumn Morrison getting the opportunities he craved with the senior squad.
“The injury was gutting because I was desperate to impress at the start of the new season,” admits Beith. “It first started to bother me around February this year. I was on loan at Stirling Albion and I could feel it but I was just playing through it. The physios told me to rest it over the summer and see what happens, but in the first two days of pre-season it was still there. I had to go for the operation.
“I felt I ended last year really well and I wanted to try and force my way into the first team. McKirdy started a couple of games and was doing really well at the time so he deserved it, but it was really hard to see that because it could’ve been me.
“I was delighted for him and Callumn and it made me want to come back stronger. You just have to accept it at the time and work as hard as you can to make sure you’re physically right when you do come back. That gives you the best possible chance.
“I was just delighted to be back playing in the last couple of weeks but to get a goal on Monday was fantastic. I’ve just been building things up since I came back. I played 30 minutes two weeks ago, then 60 last week, and I just about managed a full game on Monday night. I’ve taken it slowly and everything feels good.”
Beith will continue his progress this Sunday by playing in Hearts’ Little Big Shot Youth Cup tie against Inverness at Tynecastle. It is part of a weekend double header with the Highland club and another opportunity for the young midfielder to impress onlooking coaches.