Hearts in Spain: Jorge Grant reveals the role Robbie Neilson wants him to play after journey from League One to Europe
He strolls in from training and perches himself on a stool little more than 12 hours since touching down at Malaga Airport. The last ten days have been frenetic, temperatures outside are soaring towards 30°C, but Grant isn’t in any kind of sweat.
In a matter of days, he has gone from League One to the brink of European competition after Hearts agreed to pay former club Peterborough United a six-figure transfer fee. He knows the opportunity of a lifetime has fallen into his lap.
“It's been on the cards for ages and ages now,” said the Englishman. “About a month ago, my agent spoke to me when I was at Peterborough. They put me on the transfer list so we kind of knew that this summer, we'd attract some interest with it being publicised. So it was quite early on. Knowing a club wants you is a nice feeling.
“I came up [to Edinburgh] last week. It's a massive club so straight away it drew my interest. I could have stayed at many League One teams and done the same thing I've done all my career. That's why I’ve taken this opportunity.
“It's worked out well for me. It's a massive draw, getting the chance to play in Europe and the top league in Scotland. There are massive, massive games that I've not been involved in in my career so far. I'm excited for it.
“I came up last Monday and met the manager, met Joe [Savage, sporting director], went round the stadium, the training ground and saw the city. From that moment on, I knew that I'd be signing. I'm just glad it's all done.”
A £750,000 release fee in his Peterborough contract made things slightly awkward after their relegation from the Championship. They accepted Hearts’ much lower offer in order to let the player move on.
“It was tough last season because, towards the back end, I didn't play at all,” said Grant. “Them then asking for a high fee would've pretty much made it impossible, so I have to thank them for dropping the fee down a lot. It's helped me out and helped them out as a club because they've got money for me.”
Grant’s Hearts knowledge is decent, helped after watching last month’s Scottish Cup final while on holiday. He had no idea at the time that he was looking at his new colleagues.
“I just knew it was a massive club with a massive fan base. The amount of messages I got yesterday morning, people speaking to me and welcoming me to the club. It's been very nice, the lads have made me feel welcome too.
“I actually watched the cup final when I was abroad with one of my friends, so I know the standard of the club and that drew me to it as well. I didn't know at that point [that Hearts were interested]. We were just sat at a beach club and it was on TV so we ended up watching it.
“It's unfortunate for the lads how it ended but the manager told me Hearts have been in three of the last four cup finals. That just shows how a big a club this is.”
“I trained on Monday for the first time and the levels are good. A couple of times I'm thinking I'm scoring and the keepers are just pulling out top-drawer saves. I feel the standard is really good. I did parts of training and I feel quite settled already.”
Better get used to that frustration at the hands of Craig Gordon. “The lads have spoken about him and said how good he was last year as well. I can tell the quality already,” said Grant.
The practice will do him no harm whatsoever. The role Hearts have earmarked for the 27-year-old should allow him to demonstrate all his attacking midfield panache. Detailed discussions with manager Robbie Neilson provided a clear picture of what is expected of Grant at Tynecastle Park.
Neilson wants more creativity in the final third to ease some of the load on the talismanic Barrie McKay. The latest signing was recruited to share that responsibility and add some dead-ball expertise to that already provided by Stephen Kingsley.
“After the initial interest the manager gave me a call, which was nice. It's nice to know the manager wants you,” said Grant. “He explained what the club was like and how it works, plus the way the team plays. I felt that fitted in well with me.
“He wants me to bring quality to the team, bring that quality in the final third and try to help get goals and assists.”
Versatility is an advantage Grant hopes can help his quest for a starting place this season. “At the start of my career I played wide midfield, played on the left a lot, and as I've got older I've developed.
“I can play wide, I can play No.10, I can play No.8 and holding midfield as well. I think that's a good thing for me that I'm versatile and can play different positions. That's one of my strengths.
“I do think I'm more effective when I'm close to the goal. I can obviously be involved in the game a lot in midfield but I'm more effective in the final third.”