GARY LOCKE reckons the tireless efforts of lone striker Callum Paterson have epitomised the work ethic in his young Hearts side this season.
Still just 18, Paterson, who is not even considered a natural striker, has been thrown in at the deep end this term in being asked to lead the line for his depleted young side.
The South Queensferry teenager has only one goal to his name so far – the winner against Hibs last month – but Locke insists his relentless endeavour against bigger, more physical defenders has set the tone for the rest of the team.
“You can’t praise Callum enough,” said the manager. “He’s up front on his own and it’s a hard shift, but he gives absolutely everything – as have all the boys, to be fair. The one thing I said from day one is that, if they come off the pitch and they’ve given everything, then I’ll accept that, and that’s certainly what we’ve been getting from them this season.
“Callum missed [most of] last season with a long-term injury, but you can see he’s delighted to be back. We all know that’s not his position, but we’re not exactly blessed with loads of strikers. He’s working his socks off and that’s all we can ask.”
Locke is keen to get Ryan Stevenson, one of few at Tynecastle who can play as a lone striker, back to full fitness to ease the burden on Paterson. He returned to training this week after sustaining a knee injury against Hibs, and is expected to be available next month.
“Callum’s done great on his own up front, but you could see the size of the Celtic side last weekend. A lot of them are big lads,” said Locke. “Stevo comes into that category for us and will give us a bit of extra physicality in the front area.”