DANNY WILSON was thrown into the first team at Rangers when he was just 17 so he knows just how the current crop of Hearts youngsters will be feeling.
The Tynecastle teens will face the biggest season of their short careers when the SPFL Premiership season kicks off next weekend.
Despite their years, the young Jambos have been charged with the task of overcoming a a 15-point deduction handed to their club following its move into administration.
Wilson, of course, had the luxury of playing as the youngest member of a side filled with experienced pros and internationalists when he was at Ibrox.
But he is well aware of the pressures that come with suddenly finding yourself playing top-flight football as a raw teenager.
And he believes that the Hearts youngsters will cope well with everything that is thrown their way when the season gets underway. Wilson, alon with Jamie MacDonald, Jamie Hamill and Ryan Stevenson are the most experienced members of the squad at Tynecastle right now.
Budget cuts and the administration process have taken their toll, leaving manager Gary Locke with a youthful pool from which to choose his starting XI for the season ahead.
But Wilson has absolutely no doubt the young Hearts players are up to the task.
He said: “I was thrown into the side when I was just 17 but I had a lot of experienced players around me.
“I know that these guys are facing a completely different situation in that sense, but they know what the circumstances are and I am sure that they will deal with everything that comes their way.
“The boys have been doing great and they can only do their best. We’ve only been defeated once in pre-season and have kept a lot of clean sheets over that period as well so it’s up to us to push on now.
“We know that every game is going to be tough but we will take it one game at a time and see where it gets us.”
Since returning to the club on a two-year deal in the summer, Wilson has also been named club captain.
While stressing that he won’t shoulder the responsibility by himself, it is a role that he is taking on with pride.
“It is a big responsibility,” he admitted, “but it is one that I am looking forward to. There are a few other experienced heads in the dressing-room and we will all work together.
“There are also a lot of young boys, as everyone knows, and there’s no doubt that they will all have to grow up really quickly.
“They have got a great platform to play on.
“You don’t often get a chance to play for a club like Hearts when you are 18 or 19, so they have got to look at this as a really big opportunity.
“They need to go out there and grasp it while they can.
“I will help them as much as I possibly can – but I think that I can probably learn just as much from them as they can from me.”
Wilson and Co are currently in Belfast and, having beaten Crusaders 2-0 on Thursday night, will round off their pre-season friendlies with a clash against a Liverpool select today.
The former Anfield defender will no doubt come up against some familiar faces and the 21-year-old is expected to play at least an hour against his old club, having got a good 45 minutes under his belt against the Irish side.
With the league season just around the corner, Wilson is relieved to be nearing full fitness again after a couple of months recovering from a thigh muscle tear. The final decision on exactly how much game time he gets will come down to a discussion between the player himself and the club’s medical staff but, for the moment, Wilson is just keen to get as much football under his belt as he can.
“I feel good right now but I can only take this one day at a time and one game at a time. I am just looking to get as many minutes under my belt as I possibly can.
“I am hoping for an hour, maybe 90 minutes today but it will all depend what we decide between us.
“I will make myself available for the 90 and then the next big aim is to come through it unscathed.”