NEW Hearts striker Paul McCallum today revealed he has modelled his game on Andy Carroll after training with the England internationalist at West Ham United.
A tall, powerful forward, Carroll is a talismanic figure at Upton Park and McCallum believes he has similar attributes that can help him succeed in Scotland.
The 20-year-old joined Hearts on a six-month loan from West Ham on the last day of the January transfer window and is now eager to make the most of his time in Edinburgh. He has scored ten goals in 24 games during previous loan spells with Torquay, AFC Wimbledon and Aldershot in England’s lower divisions, but this is his first tilt at top-flight football.
McCallum explained how players like Carroll and Kevin Nolan, the West Ham captain, have inspired him and helped with his development. “I trained with Andy a couple of times because he was slowly edged back into training,” he said. “He is a big, big presence at West Ham. I look up to him because he is the same sort of player I am. He’ll come up to us on the training ground and give us advice. Kevin Nolan is another who will pull you aside and say: ‘Do this, it will make you a better player.’
“There are a lot of good young players at West Ham. We are all just waiting for our break and hopefully it will come soon.”
When the opportunity to join Hearts on loan arose, McCallum instantly accepted as it gave him the chance to play in Scotland’s Premiership. “It wasn’t a tough decision. Our under-21 manager rung me up and told me Hearts were interested and I jumped at it. It’s a great opportunity for me to come and play in the Premiership,” he continued.
“I will take that until the end of the season and try to get as many games and goals as I can. I didn’t know anyone up here, so it was all brand new to me. So I quickly whacked Heart of Midlothian into Google. I looked at the league table and I saw they only had two points from 23 games. I was like: ‘Woah! What’s going on there?’ I didn’t know they were in administration.
“So I carried on searching and I discovered what had happened. And then I thought it was even more of an opportunity for me to come and do well. I probably still would have come [if Hearts had only amassed two points] because it is a great opportunity to come and play in the top flight in Scotland.”
McCallum didn’t have time to consult the wily Sam Allardyce, West Ham’s manager, about the prospect of joining Hearts. He had other notes of interest from clubs in League Two, but those paled into insignificance when he heard there was a suitor from north of the Border.
“I didn’t speak to Sam directly, he was a busy man at the time trying to get signings in,” explained the player. “I just spoke to our under-21 manager, who said it was a great opportunity. There were clubs in League Two who wanted to take me on loan but I have been there and done that already. I wanted a new experience.”
McCallum’s Hearts debut ended in the disappointment of a League Cup semi-final defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle on penalties. To compound the misery, the young striker missed one of his new team’s spot-kicks during the shootout at Easter Road.
His first chance to atone comes this afternoon, when he is expected to start as Hearts again face Inverness in the league.
Nonetheless, he has been encouraged by the arrival of a fellow West Ham youth player in the Scottish Premiership. “One of my friends, George Moncur, has just gone to Partick Thistle [on loan],” he said. “I hope he does well there and hopefully I’ll do well here and next year we’ll see what happens. Once we’re both settled I will give him a ring and hopefully go and see him.”