RANGERS’ capture of David Templeton leaves Hearts needing to fill an important void in their team outwith a transfer window. Wingers with pace, trickery, ball skill and a goal threat are valuable commodities and can be difficult to replace. Yet there is one candidate fresh out of Riccarton with the potential to take Templeton’s mantle.
Step forward Jamie Walker, the 19-year-old academy pupil who grew up just five minutes along the road in Sighthill. Capped by Scotland at every age group, he is waiting to establish himself at club level after graduating from Hearts’ academy to the senior squad over the summer. Encouragingly, he carries many of the same attributes as Templeton. Even the Hearts manager John McGlynn acknowledges the comparison.
Both players are instinctively attack-minded, like committing defenders and possess the once-common “tanner ba’” skills that have become a rarity in the Scottish game. Both emerged from humble surroundings in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively. They even benefited from loan spells with Raith Rovers, where they gained vital first-team experience under McGlynn as part of their apprenticeships.
Templeton grew into a vital component of the Hearts first team and Walker, four years his junior, has the possibility to do likewise. Youth coaches at Riccarton believe that, given time, he can reach the top having watched him stand out at every age level. “I do see similarities between them, yes,” said McGlynn in an exclusive Evening News interview.
“There are no two players the exact same but I do see comparisons. Jamie can play wide and through the middle, both of them have the wee feint that can lose players and get you past defenders. They are both players who excite fans so there are similarities.
“At 19, the same age Jamie is now, Temps came out on loan to Raith and did very well. Jamie has been out there and did equally as well. He came back to Hearts and now, with Templeton moving on, there is the temptation to feel and hope that Jamie can come through and be the equal of Templeton at least.”
Walker is depicted as a relatively quiet kid within the Hearts dressing-room who, like many young footballers, has a penchant for social networking. “He actually tweets more than he talks. I think he’s really good at tweeting, if you want to know that,” smirked McGlynn.
“He’s quite a quiet character, to be fair. He is a really nice lad but even I find it difficult to get very much out of him. And I don’t tweet so I can’t really do that. I’m not really up on ‘following’ him. We find a lot of young lads are quite quiet and he is just one of a few.”
Although encouraged by the teenager’s footballing ability, McGlynn concedes there is a certain naivety within Walker’s game which must be extinguished if he is to prosper with Hearts.
“Jamie is a gifted player. We’re trying to get through to him regarding the whole package of the game. There is a game with the ball and a game without the ball. Jamie’s very much one who is thinking that the only time he has to play is when he gets the ball. There is a game going on without it and we’re still trying to get that into Jamie on a daily basis.
“If he wakes up and realises the opportunity he’s got then, yes he’s got what it takes. He is a gifted player going forward, he can take people on and beat them. He did very well for me and Raith Rovers Football Club at the end of last season so I know the talent he’s got. But he has to realise he has an opportunity here and he needs to grasp it with two hands.”
Walker will be given time to develop by Hearts and has already held one-to-one discussions with McGlynn about what being a first-team regular at Tynecastle requires. “I have spoken to Jamie. I did it at Raith and I’ve done it here,” said McGlynn. “We’re still waiting on the penny to drop. It’s up to us to keep at him and keep his development going. We certainly need Jamie to listen and to want to learn.
“Like any young player, you look for a chance, your chance comes along, you have to take it. If you don’t, someone else might take it. The younger players who are even younger than you might take your place if they fancy it.
“That’s when sometimes you end up having to move and go somewhere else and perhaps not fulfilling the potential you’ve got.
“No-one can wait forever because there are always younger players wanting to come through and take your place.
“Jamie needs to break in and take his opportunity. At the minute, it’s the same for Andy Driver, Callum Paterson and Arvydas Novikovas. These are the guys in the wider areas who have done well recently and, in Driver’s case, over a few seasons beforehand. He’s obviously had injury problems but he’s been back and been playing towards the end of last year and he’s fully fit now.
“He wants to stake a claim for a regular place in the team and, with Templeton moving on, there are opportunities.
“It’s really up to the players to force themselves into the team with the performances they put on during training and on a match day.”
Provided he acts on the advice from McGlynn and others at Riccarton, there appears to be no reason why Jamie Walker cannot be the heir apparent to David Templeton’s Tynecastle throne.