Jamie Walker today expressed relief at seeing his Hearts contract extended after worrying that injury would cost him his Tynecastle career.
The 20-year-old winger was concerned that three months out with a broken metatarsal could destroy his hopes of staying, but new director of football Craig Levein put his mind at ease.
Hearts took up their options to extend the contracts of Walker, Jason Holt, Brad McKay, David Smith and Dale Carrick for a further 12 months. Levein informed all five players last Monday that they would be retained, and Walker was relieved at the news. He spent three months sidelined by injury earlier this year and only returned for the last few weeks of the campaign.
“The club had to tell us they were keeping us before a certain date and after that the extension automatically kicks in. At the meetings last week, when Gary Locke and other players were let go, Craig and [head coach] Robbie Neilson spoke to all the boys who had the extra year’s option. They told us we were all staying so I was happy to hear that. It was a bit of a relief because I’ve been injured. It’s good to just get another year and hopefully I can do really well next season. I always wanted to stay here. I had a good start to last season and then I got injured and found it hard to get back in the team. I’m just delighted I’m contracted for another year now. It’s a bit worrying because you don’t know if you’re going to have a job when your contract is running out, so I’m just happy to stay here and I want to impress next season.”
Hearts see Walker as an integral part of their squad for next season’s Championship campaign under Neilson. Yet the player believes he faces stern competition for a place in the team. Sam Nicholson and Billy King emerged as first-team regulars towards the end of the season, with Smith also a contender for a place on the wing. “There are a few new faces in the team but that might make us do better or try harder,” continued Walker. “Everyone will need to fight for their places. I’ve got confidence in my ability so I want to work hard, impress Robbie and hope he picks me.
“The boys have a lot more experience now and I think that can stand us in good stead for next season. As a player, you’re always trying to improve. Even when you have a good game, you’re always looking at the bad bits and trying to improve on them. I’ll be looking to have a good pre-season because, after I came back from injury, there weren’t many games left and I didn’t play much.”