Connor Randall open to making his Hearts stay permanent
Connor Randall is open to the prospect of staying at Hearts beyond the end of his loan agreement.
Ahead of Sunday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final with Motherwell, the 22-year-old revealed he would happily discuss a permanent move to Tynecastle if Hearts and parent club Liverpool agree a deal.
Whether that is possible remains to be seen given Randall’s Anfield salary dwarfs anything Hearts could offer. He has certainly looked comfortable in Scottish football, more so since reverting to his favoured right-back role under Craig Levein.
Randall was identified by Levein’s predecessor Ian Cathro and his assistant Austin MacPhee as someone who could bring energy in midfield. His season-long loan was negotiated on that premise last summer, but it is clear he is more suited to a defensive role.
After 22 appearances, his quest for silverware continues in Lanarkshire this weekend – weather permitting, of course. He is unsure whether his year in Scotland can be extended, so if he is to leave he wants to do so with a winner’s medal safely tucked away in his back pocket.
Randall is waiting to see if talks will commence on his future. “It hasn’t come up yet. The conversation hasn’t happened. If it does, I’ll be open to listening to that conversation,” he told the Evening News. “It depends what happens in the summer between the clubs and what they decide to do.
“I haven’t heard anything yet. All I can say is I’ve really enjoyed my time here.
“Hearts have a great set-up, a great set of fans and I think this club is going to go on to big things. In Scotland, it’s a massive club and deserves to be higher up the table and winning silverware. That’s not far round the corner.”
He admitted being taken aback when he heard Hearts wanted him as a midfielder initially. “It was a little bit of a surprise at first. I hadn’t really played in midfield much in the recent past. They had seen me play and seen my style of play. I think I’ve shown since I’ve been at right-back that I’m committed and things like that. They felt they needed that in midfield at the time.
“Since I’ve gone back to right-back I’ve put in some better performances. I’m just happy being up here with the amount of games I’ve had so far. Hopefully, I can keep it going to the end of the season and play as much as possible.
“We have a good squad and a good group of lads no matter who plays. That’s really important, especially in cups. Everyone wants to play and everyone is ready to go.
“I think right-back suits me better. Playing midfield was always something I enjoyed when I was younger but I hadn’t played there for a while. It’s different to adapt to and I’ve felt more comfortable since I’ve gone back to right-back. I think I’ve been able to show more of the player I am.”
Dropping into defence put him in direct competition with the Northern Ireland internationalist Michael Smith and talented youngster Jamie Brandon. Randall had to take a turn of sitting on the substitutes’ bench last month but returned to Hearts’ starting line-up for Tuesday night’s league draw with Kilmarnock.
“No-one likes sitting on the sides watching, it’s a player’s worst nightmare,” he admitted. “You just need to make sure you’re ready for when you’re called upon. It’s the manager’s decision who he wants to pick for each game. You just have to keep yourself fit and keep yourself going, make sure you’re ready to step in.”
Having regained the right-back berth, he is determined to stay involved should Sunday’s tie go ahead. Randall hasn’t been in Gorgie too long but he fully understands the relationship between Hearts and the Scottish Cup.
“I know it’s a massive cup and a big thing here. This club does deserve silverware because it’s a great club. We need to bring a trophy here and we want to go one step closer to that on Sunday,” he stated.
“It’s a huge game. Everyone knows how much it means to the fans and we will do everything we can to go and get the result we need.
“It would be massive to get to a final but you can’t look too far ahead. It’s the quarters on Sunday and that’s the main thing we have to think about. To win something for this club is what we train for every day. It excites everyone but we can’t look too far ahead beyond the quarter-finals.”
Randall’s cup experience is already better than most players despite his relative youth. Five of his eight first-team appearances for Liverpool have been in either the FA Cup or the League Cup.
“I made my debut in the cup and played a few more games in the cups, which was good experience down there. I played in a 6-1 win away at Southampton a couple of years back. Cup games are different and exciting and I like the cup ties,” he said.
Sitting fifth and seventh respectively in the Ladbrokes Premiership, Hearts and Motherwell know the Scottish Cup is their only remaining hope of a trophy this season.
“It’s disappointing in the league because we’d like to be higher up the table and the gap between us and fourth place should not be as big,” said Randall.
“We have to concentrate on this game now. It is the only chance to lift silverware this season. That means a lot to all the lads so we’ll be giving 100 per cent to get ourselves into a semi-final.”