HEARTS striker Gordon Smith stressed that he is under no pressure tonight as he prepares to start his first match for Hearts in 18 months.
The 20-year-old has been named in the starting XI for this evening’s Europa League play-off return leg against Tottenham Hotspur. Smith’s last Hearts start was on February 2, 2010, in the League Cup semi-final defeat by St Mirren at Fir Park. He has since spent 12 months on loan at Stirling Albion, scoring 11 goals, and is now desperate to prove himself to the new Hearts manager Paulo Sergio.
The Portuguese has selected a youthful, attacking line-up for the match with Spurs, who lead 5-0 following the first leg at Tynecastle. Although overhauling such a heavy deficit is virtually impossible, Smith admitted he is excited by tonight’s opportunity.
“There’s no pressure, I know the situation,” he told the Evening News today. “We are going to try our best but it’s a tall order to overturn this scoreline. We have a gameplan and if I score, then it’s a bonus. I’m a striker and I’m meant to score but it’s going to be difficult at a place like this.
“Whoever I’m up against is going to be good because Tottenham aren’t going to have a bad player. It would be brilliant to play against Michael Dawson or Younes Kaboul or someone. Even if they do play younger boys, I’m sure they’ll be ones to watch for the future.” Sergio challenged young players like Smith, Arvydas Novikovas, Ryan McGowan and Scott Robinson to seize their chance in London and press themselves into contention for Sunday’s Edinburgh derby with Hibs. “That’s the challenge, to show that they are able to help Hearts in future. They don’t have to fear,” he said.
“If Spurs put their stronger team on the pitch it’s a risk for us, but in football, in life, we have to take those risks if you want to do what you should do. I think at this moment for Hearts it’s the right thing to do. It’s a great opportunity for them to live a high moment, with a great atmosphere, and they should be motivated and focused on what we should do.”
Asked if some players could feature in the derby if they impress this evening, Sergio replied: “Of course. That’s the main idea. They have to show me that they are ready to do what I want them to do in the SPL games. When I said to them that they’re going to play, it’s because I believe them. But they have to prove it.”