Alex Cochrane: The cheeky boyish grin from quiet Hearts loanee with a secret behind his first senior goal
One of Hearts’ more understated summer signings rose sharply to prominence on Saturday.
Key contributions to every goal in the 3-0 defeat of Livingston confirmed Alex Cochrane’s most productive afternoon in maroon so far. He compounded the perfect day by converting the third himself to claim his first strike in senior football.
Since signing a season-long loan with Hearts in June, the Brighton and Hove Albion player’s performances at left wing-back have been increasingly steady and assured. Public adulation has largely been reserved for other new recruits like Beni Baningime and Ben Woodburn, but Cochrane is clearly a reliable and talented recruit.
He still found himself left out of the 2-2 draw at Ross County ten days ago so needed to react positively back at Tynecastle Park against Livingston. It's fair to say the response was emphatic.
The 21-year-old cushioned Barrie McKay’s cross into Michael Smith’s path for the opening goal. Then he brought down another McKay delivery to feed Cameron Devlin, who prodded the ball to Baningime to earn the penalty from which Liam Boyce made it 2-0.
Cochrane arrived with impeccable timing at the back post to meet yet another McKay ball and stroke home Hearts’ third goal in the second half. Nearly 500 miles from home, with arms outstretched and punching the air in delight, he was having the time of his life in front of the Gorgie Road end.
The build-up to the goal was pre-planned in secret. “My eyes lit up when the ball came across,” he explained to the Evening News.
“I just thought: ‘Get this on target and it’s a goal.’ When the ball hit the back of the net and I heard the roar from the crowd I didn’t know what to do with myself. It’s my first goal in professional football and it’s some feeling.
All about timing
“You just want to get that adrenaline out of you so you run to the crowd. I did the first celebration that came into my head. The overall team performance and clean sheet topped it off as well. Hopefully it’s the first of many goals for me.
“I actually spoke to the assistants last week about it. They said arriving at the back post is all about the timing. If you are standing in there, it’s easier for people to mark you. If you arrive just as the ball comes in, it’s easier to get on the end of it.
“I had scored a few times in training but it was just instinct that made me get in there at the weekend. Hopefully it’s not the only time I score this season.”
Last time a lad called Cochrane struck his first senior goal at Tynecastle, it was Celtic being dismantled by young Harry back in 2017. Namesake Alex bears a similarly cheeky boyish grin. However, he is sufficiently mature to realise Hearts cannot relax despite an unbeaten start in the cinch Premiership.
Cochrane admitted seeing the club joint-second in the table is more than he expected after seven games. “I think so, yes. When you look at the recruitment, the depth of our squad and the quality in there, we deserve to be there. We just have to keep on pushing and I'm sure it can be a positive season come the end.
“Saturday was a very good day at the office for us and all the lads enjoyed it. That’s the way it should be in every game. We showed what we are capable of, we were clinical and we got the job done. It was a top performance and three deserved points.
“Now we just have to go about our business every day. You can’t get carried away looking at the table or that’s when teams will catch you up. Then poor performances can sneak in.
“We need to take every day and every game as it comes and stick together as a team. If we keep doing that I’m sure we will have a very positive season. It’s only seven games in so we still have plenty of games to come.”
Suck it up
Being left on the substitutes’ bench in Dingwall irked him somewhat and, to an extent, inspired Saturday's goalscoring display. Asked if it gave him a jolt, he replied: “Yes, 100 per cent. I want to be in the team week in and week out.
“If I’m not in it, then it motivates me to push myself to get back in. If I’m not in the starting line-up, I’ll accept it and I know I will just need to work even harder to get myself back in.
“I’m still young and learning the game so being left on the bench was something I had to suck up and take. You move on from it. Getting back in the team on Saturday, I just had to show why I should be in the team.
“You sit on the bench and watch how the game pans out. You’re there to support the boys but as soon as you’re back on the pitch, you need to give it your all and show the manager why you should be there.”
Unfortunately, no-one from the Cochrane clan travelled to witness Saturday’s historic family event in Gorgie. They must make do with video footage of the youngster’s first senior goal.
Staff at parent club Brighton study his progress weekly. Pathway development manager David Weir, who brokered the loan deal, visited his former workplace for the Edinburgh derby earlier this month.
“There are still things I can improve on,” said Cochrane. “I go through clips, sit down with people at Brighton and Hearts and look at areas to work on. It’s always nice to get feedback from people at Brighton and I do hear from David Weir.
“At the same time, I’m here playing for Hearts so I have to do what they want me to do.”
So far, he seems to be precisely what they are looking for.