Hearts players are using private chats with the club chaplain to help clear their minds this season.
Andy Prime attends Riccarton each Thursday through Sports Chaplaincy UK to listen to players’ worries or concerns, or to hear anything else they wish to get off their chest.
Sports chaplains are used by 39 of the 42 professional clubs in Scotland and Prime explained why his role can be beneficial: “It’s confidential. They may not want to tell a team-mate, the physio or the gaffer what is going on with problems. It may be that, if the gaffer knows they’re down, he will worry about how they might play.
“If they can come and speak to me, I’m not going to report to the gaffer. We can deal with it in confidence. So players can come and see me here or drop me a text and we can go for a coffee during the week.”
Stressing that his role with Hearts is not religious, Prime said: “A chaplain’s job is done well when he’s unseen. It’s great to get to know the guys as individuals before football players. They’re husbands or dads, sons and brothers. We want to make sure that we help them.
“This is my second season at the club. It’s still early days but, as most of my time is spent at a desk, it’s great to get out into the world of football and help these guys out. John McGlynn was manager here when I first came in. He’d experienced chaplaincy at other clubs. Gary Locke and Jim Jefferies had seen it at Kilmarnock, so they were keen to get it established. Almost every professional club in Scotland has a chaplain now.”
Inevitably, Prime is a target for banter on the training field each week. “Gary Locke called me Charlie Chaplain on my first day here. I don’t think anyone knows that my name is Andy Prime. The banter is good.”
On a more serious note, Prime has been impressed with how Hearts’ youngsters have conducted themselves with their club in administration and fighting to survive. “Gold is refined in fire. And, for some of these young boys, this season has been a bit of a furnace. In terms of their character, it will serve them well for the rest of their lives – not just the rest of their careers.”