A hugely important season lies ahead for Kenny Anderson as he enters the final year of his Hearts contract. His 18-month deal expires next summer, but the club have an option to extend it for another year. Anderson is determined to earn that longer stay.
The 23-year-old midfielder has been heavily involved in pre-season friendlies and is benefiting from the demanding training and fitness work. Preparations are more intense than he is used to in his native Netherlands, but he won’t complain. He is eager to sample Scotland’s top flight having first taken an interest in Scottish football as a child through his Dundonian father.
The season ahead offers Anderson the opportunity to prove he can handle the British game after playing in the Dutch Eredivisie with RKC Waalwijk. It is more robust, but he knew that before crossing the North Sea. He arrived at Tynecastle in February and already finds himself playing for his long-term future.
“My contract is till next summer so, from that perspective, it’s a big season for me. I have a lot of competition for my position so I have to show myself in pre-season and in training. Hopefully I’ll get enough game time to earn a longer stay,” he said.
“I knew when I came here that I signed a one-and-a-half-year deal. Is that pressure? It’s just football. You’re always under pressure. You have to perform and that will determine whether you sign a new contract or if you have to move on. I don’t see that as much pressure.
“I feel good in Edinburgh, I’ve got my own place now. We’ll see about [a longer contract] in a couple of months, but I’d be glad to stay. My family are proud and it’s nice for them to have a reason to come here. For me, it’s my job and it’s football.”
Anderson’s adaptability can only enhance his chances of staying with Hearts beyond the season’s end. He favours a No.10 role in behind the front line, but has been used mainly in central midfield so far this summer.
“I’ve played a lot as a sitting midfielder here,” he continued. “Before, I didn’t really play much in that position. I was always an attacking midfielder. We usually play 4-4-2 with two wide men so that [central attacking] position isn’t always there. We have a lot of good players as well. Gavin Reilly can play there, Jamie Walker can play there, and Soufian El Hassnaoui can play there. There’s a lot of competition in that area so I will have to see where I will play. Actually, I can play everywhere in midfield.
“Pre-season has been quite hard, actually. There are a lot of games, more games than I’m used to, but it’s good to get the fitness work in. We’ve been to Ireland and England so we’ve been on the road as well. That’s good for team bonding. Although a lot of players from last year are still here, there are also some new players as well. The results maybe haven’t been what we expected, but it’s still pre-season and it’s about getting the fitness in. The most important thing is to be ready come August 2.”
That’s the date Hearts begin their Premiership campaign at home to St Johnstone. Anderson is confident they can hit the ground running. He admits to a certain amount of intrigue about top-flight football in Scotland. “I’ve only seen it on television and heard stories,” he said. “Games at Celtic Park and places like that are what you look forward to. It was good to experience Scottish football last season, but it wasn’t at the highest level. Now we’re back at the top level and I’m looking forward to playing in the Premiership.
“In Holland, we don’t really have Sky Sports, but you see the scores on the internet and you see some goals. You know who the big players are. My background is Scottish so my dad was always interested in the Scottish league. That’s how I got to know about it.
“We’ve had some injuries in pre-season, but that can always happen when you get back into full training. Most of the players will be fit for August 2. I think we are ready. A good start is always very important and we have a chance to pick up points at the start of the season.”
• Kenny Anderson was speaking as DPS Group and Hearts launched a major sponsorship agreement to support key community football activity at Tynecastle.