GORDON SMITH doesn’t set himself a target when it comes to scoring goals.
His aim for this season is much simpler.
The young Hearts striker just wants games, and as many of them as possible.
Smith has been involved on just three occasions so far in this campaign, twice from the bench, and one precious start in the victory over Aberdeen at Tynecastle last weekend.
That taste of first-team action from the start in the 2-0 victory over the Dons has left Smith wanting more and he is hoping that manager John McGlynn will have seen enough over that 68 minutes – he was substituted as the game entered the final stages and replaced by Dale Carrick – to convince him to use him again this weekend against St Johnstone in Perth.
Smith said: “My only target this season is to start as many games as I can. That is what it has always been.
“Everyone who is a professional football player just wants to spend as much time as possible being involved in competitive games, it is only natural. That’s what I am looking for, get more starts and show what I can do.
“It can be difficult to come into the side like that, especially when the only other times I have been involved this season are two substitutes appearances.
“After the first 15 minutes or so go past, it’s like you’ve never been out of the side and it just feels normal to you.
“I thought I did okay.”
Hearts manager John McGlynn revealed that youngster Scott Robinson has not been suspended by the club, but that his fate will be decided at a meeting between the club, player and his agent at some point next week.
With his agent currently abroad, Robinson has been told to stay away from training in the meantime after he refused to accept a seat on the bench for the home game against Aberdeen last weekend.
Smith admits that it can be frustrating to find yourself on the sidelines, or in the squad but not used over the course of the 90 minutes, although he acknowledged that patience can be one of the most valuable tools for a young footballer.
He continued: “Sometimes when you are warming up and you can see the way that a game is panning out, you just want to get on and do your bit to help the team out. When that doesn’t happen then of course it can be frustrating, but you just need to keep waiting for your chance and be patient.
“Every time that I am on the bench, I always believe that I have got a chance of getting on and you have to stay positive like that.”
A sustained run in the side would certainly give Hearts supporters a glimpse of what they can expect from the young striker – and could help Hearts find the solution to a problem which has plagued them in recent months.
Goals have proved to be difficult to come by for the Tynecastle side this season, but Smith is confident in his own ability and that he is capable of hitting the back of the net in the SPL.
If the Jambos can defeat their hosts tomorrow they would leapfrog Steve Lomas’ side, who currently sit in sixth place in the table – but they’ll have to score to have a chance of doing that.
The 21-year-old added: “I think that I can give the side a presence up front and could bring a few goals as well.
“I’m keen to link up and bring other people into play. The main thing is that I will work my socks off, I’m a worker and I will give it everything.
“Confidence is key when you are a footballer, so sometimes when you’re not playing it is hard to get your confidence up, but I have always had confidence in my ability.”
Smith is now an established member of the senior squad and revealed that his team-mates are good at passing on advice to their younger, less experienced members of McGlynn’s side.
With players who have vast international experience under their belts, like Andy Webster and Marius Zaliukas, playing a key role, Smith believes that they have helped the kids make the transition to the senior squad.
Hearts make no secret of the fact that they will be relying more heavily than ever before on their youth players to pad out their team and there will, without doubt, be more pressure on the young shoulders.
Smith, however, reckons that the senior players will help with the step up.
“There are a lot of younger boys involved with the first team now so it’s good that a lot of the older players help out and give us advice,” he said.
“We’ve got the likes of Andy and Marius, who have played international football and they are always good with the younger players that we have got.
“A few of the boys have come through the ranks from the 20s or whatever and I have to admit they have been brilliant with us.
“There will maybe a bit more pressure on the younger players, but I think that every one of us would say that we would rather have it that way.
“At the end of the day, we’re all waiting on our chance and when it comes along you have got to be ready to take it.
“The more experience that you get, the better you are going to become as a player.
“I grew up a Hearts fan and watched guys like Andy Webster when I was younger, so it is good to be playing alongside them now and learning from them.”
A number of players are expected to be leaving Tynecastle in January as the club yet again bids to cut its financial outgoings, but while Smith’s contract is up at the end of the season, it is likely to be the bigger earners who head for the exit door.
Smith knows that his place in the squad is not guaranteed, but, having grown up as a Hearts supporter, is keen to make enough of an impression to give himself as much chance as possible of staying in Gorgie in the long-term.
Personal performance and the club’s league position will both come into that and Smith concluded: “The manager wants us to finish as high up the league table as we possibly can. At the start of the season everyone was talking about us challenging for second place but, at the moment, we just want to concentrate on finishing in the top six and then seeing what we can do from there.
“On a personal note I just want to make a good impression and play as much football as I can.
“My contract is up at the end of the season so it is important that I show what I can do and see what happens from there.”