Callumn Morrison stays humble and grounded despite rapid Hearts rise
He slips quietly into Riccarton each morning and instantly gets to work.
Training equipment is brought out, boots need to be cleaned and dressing rooms swept. He then changes with the reserves in an area separate from the first team despite playing in 14 of Hearts’ 16 matches this season. This is Callumn Morrison, a teenager utterly determined not to be distracted by the glamour of senior football.
He is about to play in the biggest game of his young life as Hearts prepare for Sunday’s Betfred Cup semi-final with Celtic. The winger’s build-up will be ordinary, low-key and understated. Nothing else is of interest. Even posing for photographs or signing autographs makes him feel slightly uncomfortable, for he has no desire to court attention.
Don’t mistake the grounded mindset as evidence that this player is not exciting. Many scintillating performances for Hearts this season destroy that theory on their own. His personality is more reserved because he simply wants to focus on performance over pizzazz. That is no bad trait in an era of social media profiling and fickle celebrity worship.
Morrison’s outlook will serve him especially well this weekend as he tries to help Hearts into the final of the Scottish League Cup – a trophy they have not lifted for 56 years. “It will be the biggest day of my career. It would be a dream to win. I’ve grown up always wanting to play in games like this,” he says. He is surprised to be involved at such an elevated level aged 19, but his contribution more than justifies his inclusion in manager Craig Levein’s team.
“I still consider myself a reserve player,” continues Morrison. “I don’t let these things get to my head. That’s the worst thing you can do as a footballer, especially at my age. Some boys let it go to their heads and start getting too big for their boots. You see them just drifting out of the game. Right now, everybody is keeping me grounded and treating me normally.
“I’m still in the youth dressing room. I don’t bother about that stuff. Being in there is helping me stay grounded. If you move up to the first-team dressing room then you don’t need to do your jobs any more. If I’m not doing chores about the place and I get lazy, it might affect my performance. So I’m happy enough to stay in the youth dressing room, do my jobs in the morning, go out and train, get my lunch, do a bit in the gym and then go home.”
The jobs are a throwback to the good old days when groundstaff were responsible for the upkeep of a football club and its stadium. Some of those intrinsic values are sadly missing from modern football, so it is refreshing to hear Morrison talk enthusiastically about his daily task list.
“My jobs are: Get the first-team gear out, clean Michael Smith’s and Liam Fox’s boots. Sometimes I forget to do it and Mick gets on my back. Then I need to clean the rehab area up and clean up the first-team dressing room.”
Entering the seniors’ lair is less daunting when you train and play beside them every day.
“There have been loads of new faces and it’s a different bunch. The boys made me feel welcome when I started coming in about the first team. If you go in and people aren’t speaking to you, it takes a while to get going.
“It has been a quick for me from last season. I had loan spells at Stirling Albion and Brechin. Stirling were winning almost every week but Brechin was hard mentally. It was a difficult environment to go into when they were losing games.
“The gaffer has given me a chance this season. I thought once that chance was there, I had to take it. I think I have taken it so far but I need to keep doing the things I’m doing to continue doing well. I definitely didn’t expect all these minutes and all these games. It comes down to the gaffer. He has shown a bit of faith in me and I’ve got to thank him. I want to keep the performances going.”
All these games bring all these fans clamouring for a piece of you. It is a part of football Morrison would probably rather avoid if given the choice, but he would never snub a supporter’s request.
“I have been recognised a few times but I don’t really go out as much. When I finish training, I just go home and chill out. Fans I bump into just ask for a picture or an autograph. I’ve got to say yes. Even if they’re taking the mick, I just need to go along with it. I do feel a bit embarrassed. I don’t really like it when people ask for my autograph, but that’s what it is being a football player.
“I’d say it’s one of the things which has taken the most getting used to. It is hard when somebody comes and asks for your autograph. I find it awkward – but if that’s what it takes to be a footballer then I don’t have a problem with it.”
Having joined the Hearts youth academy from Stirling as a 14-year-old, his career is now blossoming rapidly. A Betfred Cup semi-final in front of more than 60,000 people, a Premiership title bid and a probable Scotland Under-21 call-up is plenty to occupy a 19-year-old.
Understandably, he is itching to keep his place in the side. “That’s what I’ve been pushing for. Hopefully I’ve done well enough to get a place in the starting line-up. It would still be a great experience just being part of the squad, or coming on as a sub,” he says.
“I’ll get as much sleep as I can on Saturday although I will be a bit excited. If I’m selected I’ll give 110 per cent.”