INDIVIDUAL video analysis sessions with your manager would benefit any footballer. When you’re the Hearts right-back sitting in the bowels of Riccarton, accompanied by nothing but a DVD player, a giant screen and Robbie Neilson, it’s the perfect opportunity.
Callum Paterson feels his game is improving from one-to-ones with a head coach who reached international level as the club’s right-back. He is determined to tap into Neilson’s knowledge as much as possible after recovering from cruciate ligament damage to reclaim his place in the Hearts team.
Neilson’s career at Tynecastle spanned ten years, many of which he spent as the undisputed right-back. Paterson is pursuing the same level of consistency. Ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Dumfries to play Queen of the South, he explained how analysing footage of his performances with Neilson is helping hone his game.
“He takes you aside after training sessions and speaks to you. He shows you in video analysis what you did well and what you could do better. He does that with you individually and he also does it collectively with the squad. Of course it helps,” said Paterson, speaking exclusively to the Evening News.
“You learn a lot from the one-to-one video stuff. In a game you think to yourself, ‘I could’ve done better there and I could’ve done better there’. Sometimes watching it back on video shows that you’ve done your job. Other times it shows that you could’ve done something different, so you definitely learn from it.
“I feel a lot more comfortable at right-back,” continued the youngster, who has operated in midfield and at centre-forward since graduating to the first-team squad two years ago. “That’s where I feel I play more naturally. I’m kind of off the pace a bit just now, being out injured and just returning. I’m just a wee bit slower than everybody else and that side of it is taking a bit longer but I’m nearly there now. It will come in time, so hopefully I can improve.”
Some players would feel daunted in Paterson’s position right now. Having injured his knee in a Petrofac Training Cup match against Annan Athletic in July, he is still regaining full-match fitness following knee surgery. Now he faces back-to-back matches on astroturf – a surface many professional footballers abhor.
Hearts travel to Dumfries tomorrow and then Alloa next weekend to play on synthetic pitches which can place extra strain on joints like the knee and hip. Paterson is unperturbed, though, and is relishing the chance to continue improving his fitness. He is even ready for the pain that may come his way, either from the knee or, more likely, a dreaded astroburn.
“My knee’s still a wee bit iffy, but other than that I feel fine. It’s giving a few aches and pains, but it’s fine. It’s nothing major,” he said. “Astroturf is basically just like playing on grass so I don’t see it as being much different. Astros now are much better than the ones you used to play on in school, with all the sand and stuff. If the pitch is right and watered properly, then it will be fine.
“I’ve played on local astros near my house before with all the sand on them and been diving about with my mates. You get big burns from them and scars up your knees, so this should be a bit better than that.
“I’ve got no problems playing on it. Astros have changed over the last few years. I won’t hold back at all, I’ll just take the astroburns as they come. It’s not something I think about during a game.
“It’s been pretty easy to come back from the injury, to be honest. The team is flying at the moment and that’s just carrying me along. The physios have done a great job and it’s been back to normal for me.”
Making his task decidedly easier is Hearts’ unbeaten start to the season. They head to Queen of the South with momentum building after dropping only two points in the league so far.
Hibs’ win at Ibrox on Monday ensured their Edinburgh rivals stayed six points clear of nearest challengers Rangers in the SPFL Championship and are now odds-on favourites to win the title and automatic promotion.
“It’s easy to come back in when the team is winning, but it wasn’t easy to get back in,” explained Paterson “I’ve managed to get my place back so I’m going to fight for it and hopefully I can stay in there. It’s always going to be a hard decision to change the team at any stage of the season, but Robbie is the manager. What he says goes and everyone playing under him is happy with that.
“There are no smaller teams in this division as far as I’m concerned and Queen of the South will make it hard for us. That showed at Dumbarton. They did well against us and the game finished a 0-0 draw. Astroturf is going to be a bit different and everyone knows that.
“At the end of the day, if we keep playing as we have been playing, then we will do well.
“That draw against Dumbarton hasn’t really set us back. We’re still unbeaten in the league and our feet are firmly on the ground. We just want to continue our form.”
It is easy to overlook the fact Paterson is still only 19. He seems to have been a Hearts first-team player for several years and has already experienced more at Tynecastle than some players pack into an entire career.
He is one of several in the squad with previous experience of Queen of the South’s astroturf. The clubs played out a 0-0 draw at Palmertson in July 2013 as Neilson’s predecessor, Gary Locke, tried to steady the maroon ship following the onset of administration the previous month.
“That was my first game back after a six-month [foot] injury and I was absolutely blowing,” smiled Paterson.
“Queens are a good side and they’re no mugs. Palmerston Park isn’t a massive venue, but you’ve got to go there having prepared properly. Their astroturf is probably one of the best you can play on.
“When we were there last time, it was a hot, muggy day and there was no water on it because it was brand new and has just been laid. It certainly wasn’t slick. We’re hoping it will be better this time so we can move the ball about.”