Jamie Walker would rest his jet-black head on the pillow as a boy dreaming of winning trophies with Hearts.
When your great uncle is the legendary Tommy Walker, success is in the blood. The winger knows he is edging nearer a title triumph at the tender age of 21 and senses the chance to realise those lifelong ambitions.
With each passing week, the countdown to the Scottish Championship climax gets more intense. Hearts are 16 points clear of Rangers at the top of the table with only 14 games remaining. Rangers have two fixtures in hand so no-one at Tynecastle can yet become too excitable.
That said, everyone involved knows the pressure is increasing on the chasing pack. Every Hearts win is one less opportunity for Rangers, or third-placed Hibs, to recover ground. Walker explained Hearts have no intention of relinquishing their vice-like grip on first place. His childhood dream is at stake, after all.
“It’s a big gap just now but we aren’t taking anything for granted. We will start celebrating if and when we actually do win the league,” he told the Evening News. “Obviously it would mean a lot [personally] but I think, as a footballer, you want to win trophies. I’m still young and to win the Championship would be great.
“It’s not the Premiership title but you need to remember that Rangers are in this league and Hibs are in this league. It’s not been easy so we will deserve a lot of credit if we do win it.”
Hearts remain firmly on course after a 4-1 win at Alloa last Saturday that put notions of a mid-season wobble to rest following a home defeat by Falkirk the previous weekend. “After last week, when we got beat by Falkirk, the boys were a bit down. Alloa is a hard place to go after losing,” continued Walker.
“I think everyone was looking at it thinking we could slip up again but the boys did well and the 4-1 win was well deserved, I reckon. We’re back to 16 points now and I think we just need to keep concentrating on ourselves. If we keep winning, we won’t be able to be caught.
“It’s a bit strange going from last season to this season. We got relegated and now we’re going for a title, so it’s different. I think Craig Levein [director of football] and Robbie Neilson [head coach] deserve a lot of credit. They’ve brought in some quality players and it shows on the pitch because we’re creating chances every week.”
Walker is seizing upon more and more of those opportunities. Saturday’s impressive solo goal at the Indodrill Stadium was his sixth of the season – double his personal total from previous years. His target now is to reach double figures and ensure he plays a significant part in driving Hearts to the league title.
“I’m delighted just to be playing for Hearts, they’re such a big club,” continued the winger. “Hopefully I can just keep putting in the performances on the pitch and you never know what could happen. I think I’ve done quite well so far this year.
“That was my sixth goal of the season at Alloa so I’m happy with that but I’d like to kick on and score a few more. I didn’t really set a goals target before the season started. In the last two seasons I’ve scored three so six so far this year is obviously a bit better. I want a few more before the season’s out. I think I’ll go for ten.”
He faces stern competition for his place, however. Walker is predominantly a wide player but performed well in a central attacking midfield role at Alloa. With new signing Kenny Anderson favouring that position, Neilson has a decision to make ahead of this weekend’s match at Livingston.
The former RKC Waalwijk midfielder is available after international clearance arrived to complete his move from the Dutch Eredivisie on an 18-month contract. Walker hopes his goal will be enough to preserve his own place in the starting line-up.
“I was working hard to get the ball back and one of the Alloa boys [Stephen Simmons] made a mistake. I managed to get in and I was delighted getting a goal,” he said.
“It was tough to start with in there but as the game opened up I got more of the ball and eventually I got my goal, so I was really happy with that. I like playing in there behind the strikers. If you get the ball and get turned, you can slip folk in or get a shot away. I don’t mind playing off the front or out wide. I’m just happy I’m in the team just now.
“The competition keeps everyone on their toes. If you have a bad game or even play not too well then you might not get picked the next week. That shows the strength we have in the squad and everybody is pulling in the right direction.”
Pulling away from the chasing pack, who are already a considerable distance behind, remains the focus for the moment. “Every game that we win is a game less where we could drop points or for the other teams to catch up on us. We just need to keep putting in the hard work,” continued Walker.
“The boys are just looking forward to Livingston this weekend and trying to get three points again. We won 1-0 at Almondvale last time and it was a hard game. We will prepare well this week and the boys will be up for it again.”