Ridiculous as it sounds, 20-year-old Scott Robinson finds himself something of an elder statesman within the Hearts dressing room as the new Scottish Premier League season begins. Manager John McGlynn is eager for him to shoulder more responsibility and offer guidance to the teenagers pushing their way into the team.
Typically, Robinson welcomes the challenge. He has been mingling with senior players since making his first-team debut aged 16, but even last season was still regarded as a new kid on the Tynecastle block. So much has changed in just a few short weeks.
New season means new blood and new expectations. Those fresh out of the Riccarton youth academy, such as Callum Paterson and Kevin McHattie, look upon Robinson as something of a role model; a player who has successfully negotiated the transition from youth to first team. Promoting youngsters has indeed been the theme of Hearts’ summer. So young are some of McGlynn’s squad it seems the day may not be far off when children are bidding farewell to Tynecastle nursery school and walking straight across to the stadium to enrol in the youth academy. Hearts should be commended for their bravery in allowing youth to prosper, even if it has in part been forced by financial restrictions. Robinson is a prime example of why it can be so beneficial. He grew up at Riccarton, made the senior team early and even captained Hearts towards the end of a league match last season. Being 20 won’t prevent him taking control and leading by example.
“We were doing video analysis the other day and afterwards the gaffer pulled me into his office and told me what he wanted from me. He seems a nice guy and his door is open any time,” said Robinson, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “It isn’t new to me because I’ve played a lot of first-team games now. The gaffer is talking about my game and he wants me to give the likes of Callum and Kevin advice and help them along. Meanwhile, the likes of Marius [Zaliukas] and Andy Webster will be helping me out. Everyone is mucking in and we are all coming together as a team. I’m sure it can be a successful season if we all pull together.
“This is the way the club’s going now. Hearing the gaffer say things like that to you is a good feeling. It’s nice to know he’s got a bit of trust in you. He just wants us to go and express ourselves, really.
“The gaffer has brought a lot to my game already. He’s taught me to show a lot more confidence on the pitch. I might be playing with someone like Webster behind me but I’ve to go and demand the ball from him, and even have a go at him if I’m not happy with him. Not that I wouldn’t do that before but the gaffer has told me I’m not a young boy any more. He wants me to assert myself, get on the ball and be a big player this season. He said if I can prove that then he’ll play me.
“It looks like we will be playing a 4-3-3 formation. There is rotation in there and he likes players to go and express themselves. The wingers like Driver, Temps and Arvydas have been told to go and attack. He doesn’t want anybody to hold back.”
Clearly McGlynn places a lot of faith in young Robinson. Quite what the player must do to impress Scotland’s Under-21 coach, Billy Stark, is another matter. Stark again named a squad minus Robinson for this month’s friendly with Belgium and seems reluctant to include the player amongst other midfielders such as Kilmarnock’s Liam Kelly, Hibs’ David Wotherspoon and Stuart Armstrong of Dundee United.
Scotland’s loss could be Hearts’ gain in this instance, for Robinson knows this season is his most important yet. “My aim this year is to try and get that starting place every single week,” he continued. “I want to hold my place in the team and I can only do that by performing in training and games. From the way the gaffer is talking, he’s going to give loads of young players a chance. I know the chance will be there for me and if I can get it then I want to hold on to it. I’ve always been happy at Hearts. When times were hard you had to fight your way into the team. Thankfully I did that last season and now I want to build on it. If you’d said to me a year ago I was going to play so many games and come on in the Scottish Cup final, I would’ve been delighted with it. But this season I need to be looking to start a lot more and get a lot more minutes. I don’t just want a half here and there or 20 minutes sometimes. It’s a massive year and I’ve got to prove myself. It’s a massive year for the club as well and it’ll be good to see where we are at the end of the season.
“I think the first two games will give a good idea of what direction the club is heading in. St Johnstone is a tough opener and then there is the derby. If we come out of those two with six points then you’ve got to think we can have a good season.”