Billy King is hoping to continue the process of re-establishing himself in the Hearts line-up tomorrow after enduring a frustrating first half to the season.
The winger has made only six Premiership starts this term, but, encouragingly for the 21-year-old, he has begun each of the last three.
Although disappointed to drop to the substitutes’ bench for the Scottish Cup win over Aberdeen a fortnight ago, he was buoyed by returning to the starting XI and playing a prominent role in the 6-0 demolition of Motherwell last weekend. With Sam Nicholson a doubtful starter and Jamie Walker still battling his back to full fitness following a recent knee operation, King is expected to retain his place for tomorrow’s lunchtime showdown with struggling Hamilton Accies at New Douglas Park.
“It was a huge boost for me to play such a big part in such a good performance last week,” said King. “It’s good for me to get 90 minutes in the first team, especially at Tynecastle.
“The manager had told me I just need to wait for my opportunity and that it would come. It came against Motherwell and I put in a good performance, so hopefully I can start against Hamilton and this can be the start of a wee run in the team.”
King was a regular on the substitutes’ bench under Gary Locke two years ago, but readily admits he was comfortable with that scenario as he didn’t feel ready to play week in, week out in the top flight at that stage. However, after starting 22 matches in the Championship last season, King has been disappointed with his lack of opportunities this term.
“It’s been disappointing so far this season considering how much I played last season,” he said. “It’s difficult. There’s times where I’ve come on and, in my opinion, I’ve done well, so it’s been difficult sitting on the sidelines. I thought I might have played more often, especially with Jamie being out injured, but there are lots of players for each position. Even Prince [Buaben] and Arnaud [Djoum] can play wide as well, so it’s difficult for me to get a regular game. I’ve just needed to be patient.”
King insists he never gave any thought to the possibility of leaving Hearts on loan in order to get more game time.
“Going on loan hasn’t been discussed,” he said. “I’ve still played more than some other players here. I’m still coming on most games and helping the team. If I don’t play on the Saturday, I get 90 minutes with the 20s, so I’m still getting game time.
“I’d like to think I’m quite patient. I just work away every day, try and do the right things and don’t let my head go down. I’ll just continue doing that. I don’t think not playing every week is stunting my development. I still feel like I’m developing. I’m coming on in games and I feel like I’m improving every day in training. I’m quite happy.”
There is one aspect of King’s game he is particularly keen to improve on. He has scored 14 goals in total for Hearts, but the last of those came in the team’s previous visit to Hamilton five months ago. “I need to work on scoring more goals,” he said. “I stay behind after training and work on that every day with Craw [Stevie Crawford]. I’m working on my all-round game, though.”