Gary Oliver wants to transfer his attacking partnership with Dale Carrick from youth team to first-team at Hearts.
The pair’s productivity amounts to more than 20 goals at under-20 level and Oliver believes they would thrive up front together in the senior side.
Both players have shown signs of promise this season as Hearts promoted a clutch of academy graduates to the first-team squad following their financial collapse. As yet, neither has cemented a regular striking place under manager Gary Locke.
Oliver, still only 18, is eager to prove himself between now and the end of the season and feels he and Carrick could transpire as a useful combination at Tynecastle.
“I think Dale and I would be a good partnership,” he said today. “We have played together in the under-20s and the partnership has produced over 20 goals, so I think we’d do alright if we were given a chance.”
For that to happen, Oliver must first establish his own place. “I’m sure if I can get in the team I can do well,” he continued. “I am a natural striker and we don’t have many of them at the club right now so I’d like to prove I am worthy of a place in the team. The best way to do that will be by coming in and scoring goals.
“I’ve been in the gym all season working on getting quicker and building myself up. I’m not the biggest so I need to be strong. And I think I have improved at everything as the season has gone on. First-team level is a lot harder than the under-20s. It’s more physical, it’s quicker, it’s just a lot harder all around.”
Whilst his Hearts colleagues are heading off on holiday over the summer, Oliver intends to use the facilities at Riccarton to work on honing his body and becoming a better player ahead of next season. Whether he remains a Hearts employee has yet to be decided, however.
“I know I need to become a better athlete. I’ll be in here during the summer trying to make myself stronger but that depends if I get another contract here. I’m up at the end of the season and I haven’t heard anything yet. We all need to wait and see what the new owners want to do. But hopefully I will get another contract. I’m playing for my future at the moment but I would love to stay on if I can.”
An ankle injury interrupted his prowess earlier this season just as he was threatening to make an impression at first-team level. To date, he has managed only seven senior appearances and is eager for more. “I got injured at the wrong time,” said Oliver. “I had just broken into the team up at Inverness but in the very first minute [after coming on] I tore my ligaments.
“It wasn’t the best time for that to happen, especially as I had worked so hard to get into the team. Now I need to keep working hard to try and regain my space in the team.
“Being so young, I wasn’t really expecting to play for the first team this season so even getting the chance to come on has been brilliant. It had been a great experience and it has helped me as a player as well. I’m hoping I can get a run in the team now and I can start scoring goals.”
He has already started to an extent, netting for Scotland under-19s at Almondvale as they beat Switzerland 4-2 on Wednesday. “It was a good game and it was good to score. It’s an honour to play for Scotland and getting a goal made it even better.
“Hopefully that might help my chances of a start against Kilmarnock [today]. I have been playing well for the under-20s and scoring for Scotland is a big thing. So hopefully I will get a chance and I can do well.”
Helping Oliver’s case is none other than Hearts’ record goalscorer John Robertson, who attends Riccarton each Thursday to coach the club’s forwards. “He’s a legend at the club so I’m just trying to take in as much as I can from him,” said Oliver. “If I can learn from him I’m sure I can do well. I haven’t seen a lot of footage of him as a player but I don’t need to – he tells me every day how many goals he scored.
“He’s still got it as well. You can see he can still finish a chance. He must have been a good player in his day but you do get sick of listening to him at times! He does like to talk about those goals.”