Alan Forrest explains his plan to impact Hearts next season and how he will execute it

Winger knows what he wants after a year in maroon.
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On the face of it, Alan Forrest’s debut season at Hearts equates to relative success for a player stepping up from a provincial club last summer. The winger left Livingston on freedom of contract and finished his maiden campaign in Gorgie with 47 appearances and five goals.

He played in all eight of the Edinburgh club’s European ties, with one of those goals a classy late strike in Riga against the Latvian champions RFS. Could he have expected much more from a first campaign in maroon? Perhaps not, but scratch the surface and Forrest is not completely satisfied. He knows there is plenty scope for improvement next term.

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More consistency, more goals and more assists are his priorities. At 26, he wants to establish himself as a regular in Hearts’ starting line-up rather than merely accept the most common role given to him so far – that of impact substitute. There is hunger in his voice when he speaks and a touch of fire in his stomach to force himself further up the first-team pecking order during pre-season training.

Forrest is conscious of the need to effect games in order to command a more frequent starting slot. “When you get your chance then you need to take it, whether that’s providing goals or assists,” he said, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “For a wide player like myself, that’s what you are looking to do in every game. If I can do that when I’m on the pitch, I think it would stand me in good stead for playing more and helping the team out.

“All the forward players are in the same boat. You go into every game with the same approach, looking to help the team out as much as you can. If you are scoring goals or assisting, then you are effecting games. That’s what I’ve got to focus on – effecting games as best I can.

“In the last few weeks we have had some positive performances, like when we beat Aberdeen at Tynecastle. If we had kept 11 men on the pitch against Hibs at the weekend, I think we would have won that game as well. There is competition for places and everybody is pushing.”

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Hearts players are awaiting news on the appointment of a new manager after playing the last seven matches of the season with Steven Naismith in interim charge. He remains favourite to secure the position on a permanent basis, with several members of the Tynecastle board supportive of his methods.

Alan Forrest wants to make more of an impact at Hearts next season.Alan Forrest wants to make more of an impact at Hearts next season.
Alan Forrest wants to make more of an impact at Hearts next season.

The club hierarchy are keen for the uncertainty not to drag on any longer than is necessary. First-team players are due to report back to Riccarton in the latter part of June to begin work under the new full-time boss. Naismith’s tactical approach was well-received by many supporters during the final few weeks, something the board duly noted.

Should the Scotland coach remain in situ, Forrest feels he and other Hearts forwards can benefit. Recent home games against Ross County and Aberdeen saw more than 60 attempts at goal in total across both matches. Wingers, strikers and attacking midfielders will hope to capitalise on that gameplan next year.

“You can see from the home games that we have started on the front foot and got the fans behind us,” said Forrest. “As a forward player in that kind of system, that suits me. It’s good for the attacking players and good for the team as well. It impacts everyone if we can all play on the front foot, create chances and get the crowd lifted.”

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Whoever the new permanent incumbent is, there is already in place a strong group of players capable of challenging in the top half of the cinch Premiership. With the likes of goalkeeper Craig Gordon, centre-back Craig Halkett, midfielder Beni Baningime and striker Liam Boyce returning from injury in the months ahead, Hearts can expect to benefit from a far stronger squad than the one which finished season 2022/23.

Character shown in recent matches against St Mirren, Rangers and Hibs will also stand them in good stead. They recovered from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in Paisley, scored a last-minute equaliser to secure the same scoreline at Ibrox, then held on for an hour with 10 men to draw 1-1 with Hibs last Saturday at Tynecastle.

“We have been up against it,” acknowledged Forrest. “We came out of Ibrox with a positive result, then we were down to 10 men against Hibs in a massive game with a lot at stake. We could easily have felt sorry for ourselves but I don’t think we did that. We showed a positive reaction in the second half. You saw everybody fighting for one another and we got our rewards.”

Not losing against their Edinburgh rivals, despite the numerical disadvantage, was a useful result as Hearts held on to fourth place and left Hibs fifth. Consequently, they earned a place in the Europa Conference League third qualifying round provided Celtic lift the Scottish Cup this weekend.

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“It’s a big confidence boost,” said Forrest. “When a team goes down to 10, they can sit in and make it horrible. Sometimes it’s not easy being the team that is a man down but we more than matched Hibs. They weren’t putting us under all sorts of pressure. They had an extra man so they were always going to get chances here and there. I felt we defended our box well, defended as a team, and deserved to come away with something.”

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