Positivity is keeping Sam Nicholson and the rest of Hearts’ young players focused at the moment despite the troubles facing their club.
The 18-year-old winger explained today that the atmosphere within the Riccarton dressing room remains upbeat, despite Hearts being 19 points adrift at the bottom of the league as Motherwell visit Tynecastle this afternoon.
Gary Locke’s mantra since his club lapsed into administration has been to stay positive and Nicholson said that has been taken on by the squad. “We totally keep a positive mindset. The gaffer has told us to stay positive – there’s no point in getting negative,” said Nicholson. “There’s still the rest of the season to go, and you never know, we might start picking up points. That’s how we’ve gone by it – staying positive and trying to get points from every game. It’s the only way to deal with the situation we’re in.
“Obviously [fans are] a wee bit devastated. But they’re saying the exact same thing as the gaffer and the players – just stay positive. It’s the only thing we can do just now. I think the most important thing is that the club is safe, at the end of the day. That’s what we’re all aiming at – just hoping the club survives. And you never know, we’ve still got a chance to pick up lots of points before the end of the season.”
The impact of Hearts’ predicament on their inexperienced players is a source of much debate at present. There is an argument that losing regularly is damaging their development and causing burnout, but Nicholson is elated simply at the opportunity to play regular first-team football.
“It’s brilliant. I never thought when I was younger I’d get this chance at such an early age, but I’m hoping I take my chance,” he said. “I wasn’t too sure at first, to be honest. When I made my debut I felt like I’d done all right. Some games have been harder than others. It’s a long season as well, and it’s a higher standard than what I’m used to. So it’s a wee bit hard sometimes, but I hope that eventually I’ll get used to the standard.”
According to Nicholson, a rest is not necessary. “All the players want to do is play. Besides the fact of needing a rest, a lot of the players don’t want to rest. I think the manager is right saying some of them might need a rest, but as players all they want to do is play anyway. It’s a hard one for us.”
Nicholson’s ascent through the Riccarton youth academy had been steady until last summer, when a group of teenagers found themselves promoted to the first-team squad as Hearts entered administration and lost many senior players. Nicholson has made eight first-team appearances so far and highlights his debut as a substitute at Inverness in August. “I never thought I’d make it at such a young age. I’m not sure I would have got my chance if we hadn’t been in this situation, but I’m grateful for the chance,” said the player, who supported Hearts as a child.
“I came here when I was 12, I didn’t expect this. There’s definitely a target to reach. But I had targets before this – I definitely didn’t think this would come so early. But I’m happy for the chance I’m given.
“I used to have a season ticket and went to all the games, so running out at Tynecastle is a dream come true. My family have come to all my games. When I was younger I used to watch Rudi Skacel – and he was here two seasons ago. There’s loads of players. I went to the Scottish Cup final in 2006 and it was brilliant.
“Being a fan, when you’re on the pitch you know what it means to all the fans watching you, so it makes you work that wee bit harder. But the fans have been great this season anyway. Even other clubs have noticed it. The away support has been outstanding. I think the fans have done well sticking by us.
“A lot of my pals are Hearts fans. I’ve got a lot of pals that are Hibs fans as well, so I get a bit of stick from them. But I get a lot of support from the Hearts fans. They’re in with the ones that sing now – the maddies. They’re in with them.”