DANNY SWANSON is still waiting for his Hearts career to ignite almost three months since returning to his native Edinburgh.
He will arrive at Fir Park tomorrow yearning for an opportunity to play and impress. In his own words, there are no excuses now.
Weeks of toil and sweat on the training fields and gym floors of Riccarton have brought Swanson’s fitness close to its peak. The only improvement now will come with matches, which are hard to get at the moment as Hearts fly high in second place in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
The midfielder is having to show patience with colleagues like Arnaud Djoum ahead of him in the queue and scoring goals. He has started only four games but doesn’t intend the bit-part role to continue much longer. Amicable discussions with head coach Robbie Neilson have already taken place.
“I speak to Robbie a lot. I played with him before [at Dundee United] and he’s easy enough to talk to,” Swanson told the Evening News. “He’s given me his reasons why I’ve not been playing and I’ve given my reasons why I should be playing. It’s not like an argument or anything. I’m just dying to play. I just want a good chance and I’m sure I’ll take it.
“He’s the manager and he’s doing well, so who am I to question that? There is a lot of quality here so I can’t say I should be playing in front of him or him. Robbie is a manager who likes to pick teams to set up against certain opponents. He won’t play the same team all the time because he’s obviously got the thing in his head where he likes to pick the right team for the right game.
“He played Arnaud in the number ten role last Saturday and it worked because he got a goal and played really well again. Wee Billy [King] was doing well until he got injured. Hopefully I’ll get a wee chance on Saturday.”
Swanson, 28, arrived back in Scotland early in September after leaving Coventry City. He was short of fitness but has worked hard on his condition in the intervening weeks.
“I wasn’t up to speed at the start but now I’m as fit as anyone else in the squad, apart from some of the freaks who can just run all day. I’m trying to get my match sharpness up now.
“I was told when I came here that there was plenty quality in my position. Once I got in, I’d have to play well enough to stay in. It’s not quite happened yet, probably down to fitness. I’m definitely feeling the benefits of the training so I don’t think there are any excuses now. Once I get my chance, I need to take it.”
Is he hard on himself because it is taking time to establish a regular place? “I used to be. I think I’ve learned from that now. It doesn’t really help anybody.
“I think I’m a bit more professional now and I just work away in training, whereas before I’d probably just chuck it. My head would go, everybody else would notice and I wouldn’t be good to be around. I’m here to help the younger boys when they’re playing and show what I can do when I do play.”
When you have to endure regular double and triple training sessions like the Hearts players, chucking it isn’t really an option.
“Nah, it isn’t. We had one on Tuesday there and it was a hard day. You kind of forget about it if you haven’t played on the Saturday. You just come in and train away and take each day as it comes. I’m really enjoying being here.
“The first thing I noticed when I came here was the amount of quality in the squad. Boys I’d never heard of before really caught my eye. We’re sitting second in the league and that’s something to be proud of. Even in my time at Dundee United, we were never second in the league. This is great to be a part of. We deserve to be there because we’ve been strong defensively and we’ve scored goals.”
It remains to be seen how many changes Neilson makes to the Hearts team which drew 1-1 with Dundee last week. Swanson will play anywhere but feels most comfortable on the left of midfield.
“I like playing there and I thought I might have a chance of playing last week, knowing Juanma was suspended. I thought he [Neilson] would have played with a number ten and he did, but Arnaud got the nod and he’s been on fire to be fair to him. He deserved it. Wide left is my preferred position but I came here as a number ten so I want to show the fans what I can do in there.”
The clock is ticking if he is to earn an extension to his contract, which expires at the end of the season.
“That’s what I was thinking from the first day I signed,” he admitted. “I need to impress and I need to get a longer deal. I want to be a bit more stable and a bit more comfortable. I’m sure my time will come in the team. I don’t have much to prove in this league. I’ve done it before, it’s just about getting back to a confident level. Confidence is a massive part of my game. I’ve noticed over the years that, once I get a bit of confidence going and have a good game, I’ll kick on. It’s just getting that one game.
“Last time I was up here, Motherwell were really strong and I think they’ve just dropped a lot. I remember playing there years ago and it is never easy at Fir Park.
“We’re going there confident and I think they’ll be a bit wary of us, being second in the league. We won’t worry about them, we’ll let them worry about us.”