JOHN McGLYNN remembers watching a nine-year-old Jason Holt play for the first time.
Instantly he called John Murray, head of youth at Hearts, raving about this diminutive Musselburgh Windsor midfielder. Then in charge of the Tynecastle youth team, McGlynn was at Pinkie Playing Fields watching Holt run riot with his local club. He knew he simply had to get the youngster to Hearts.
“I first saw him playing with Musselburgh Windsor and he’d be lucky if he was ten years old. There was him and a lad called Jake Moyes, whose dad I know very well,” recalled McGlynn. “Myself and John Murray met with them and Dougie Holt, who was at Musselburgh Windsor and still is. We had a quiet meeting and we managed to get the two of them to come to Hearts.
“That was way, way back. You’re talking ten years ago so they would only have been eight or nine. They were very young but you could see the potential down at Pinkie that morning when I went to see them play. I tipped John (Murray) off and we were fortunate to get them.”
Ten years on, Holt is one of many youth academy graduates establishing themselves at first-team level with McGlynn now the Hearts manager. “There are a number of coaches who have worked with these young players all the way through,” continued McGlynn.
“Significantly, Darren Murray has worked with them since they went full-time and done exceptionally well with them. A lot goes into getting players into this situation.
“In the style of play that we’re playing, Jason Holt will be a revelation. We’re playing some good football and he’s thriving on that.
“He is a very technical player. He’ll compete as much as he possibly can but he isn’t gifted with great strength, power or size. He’s simply a very good football player. That day at Pinkie, he was sticking out a million miles.
“You could just see that he was a good football player. He could take the ball and move it very quickly with an awareness that was beyond his years. He was way ahead. Miles ahead.”
Holt’s progress has earned him ten senior appearances this season at the age of 19. He is eager for more as McGlynn places increasing faith in his club’s youth academy, although the player struggles to recall their first encounter. “I can’t remember that day, it was too long ago,” laughed Holt.
“I was at Musselburgh as a youngster around the ages of eight and nine and I moved on to Hearts after that. I had a little run in the team earlier in the season, playing four games and then I got injured which brought it to an end. Now I’m getting another run and I’m thriving on the opportunity. Hopefully I can keep performing and keep my place in the side.
“When the gaffer first came in, all the young boys knew he would give us an opportunity. It was just a matter of time. if you’re doing well in training, he is going to give you a chance as he’s shown with the amount of boys he’s given debuts to.
“It’s great to play alongside people of a similar age that you’ve played with for a while in youth teams. It’s going well at the moment so hopefully we can all keep it up.
“We all want an extended run in the side. We all know each other’s games inside out and the older players have helped us through. Any advice they give, you need to take it on board.
“If you compare it to Hibs, they had a lot of kids in their team (a few years ago) and we’ve got quite a few at the moment. We just need to concentrate on our task just now, which is to keep doing well in the Hearts first team and take things from there.”
Holt acknowledged that the prospect of playing in the Scottish Communities League Cup final at Hampden Park next month is driving many of the Hearts youngsters on. “It’s definitely an incentive for all the players,” he said.
“The club won the Scottish Cup last year but we haven’t won the League Cup for a while. To get that trophy would be a great boost for the club.
“I wasn’t in the squad for last year’s final although I travelled with the team.
“I was involved in the cup parade the day after and it was a taste of what I could be involved in.
“If I was to be involved in this cup final it would be great for me, especially at a young age.”