Apart from starting in a Petrofac Cup tie against Livingston more than two-and-a-half years ago, Angus Beith’s competitive involvement for Hearts amounts to two late cameos in heavy league defeats by Celtic this calendar year.
For a highly-rated 21-year-old who harbours genuine ambitions of establishing himself at Tynecastle, this scenario is far from ideal. Beith has been knocking on the door of the first team ever since Gary Locke was in charge three seasons ago, but a wretched run of injury problems have wreaked havoc with his bid to challenge more established players like Morgaro Gomis, Prince Buaben, Perry Kitchen and Don Cowie for a central-midfield berth over the past couple of years.
Now operating at full fitness after eventually banishing a hip issue which had required operations during pre-season in both 2015 and 2016, the long-serving Edinburgh boy is determined to belatedly start making his mark.
“It’s very frustrating that I’ve not been able to kick on and establish myself yet,” he told the Evening News.
“The operation at the start of this season came at a bad time for me but I needed to get it done because it still wasn’t right from the original operation [a year previously]. I feel like all that’s in the past now – I’ve been fully fit ever since and I feel really good. It’s all about staying fit now, trying to get as many minutes as I can before the season finishes and look to kick on in pre-season and become a regular next season.”
Beith, who is under contract until summer 2018, is encouraged by the fact he has been deemed worthy of retaining by Hearts management even though he has barely featured in the first team. However, he recognises that he is at a critical phase of his bid to make the grade at a club he has been involved with for more than a decade.
“The club have shown a lot of faith in me to keep me on despite the injury problems so I’m looking to repay that faith,” he said. “Most of the other guys of my age-group have been released before now, so it gives me a lot of confidence that they’ve decided to keep me. It’s all about having the right mentality and believing that you can still make it. I’m desperate to make it here and I’ve got the confidence that I can do it.”
After being handed his second league outing for Hearts as a substitute for the last 19 minutes of Sunday’s 5-0 defeat by Celtic, Beith aims to generate some momentum as he looks to force his way more prominently into the reckoning over the last eight games of this season.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing result, but I was delighted to be involved on Sunday,” he said. “I felt like I handled myself well when I went on. I got a few touches of the ball and it’s good to get that experience. It was the first time I’d played in a competitive game at Tynecastle.
“Although the game was pretty much dead at that point, I was just thinking I need to go on and try and impress and do something to get into the manager’s thoughts for the next game. You just need to go on with a clear mind, forget about the score and try and impress in the time you’ve got on the pitch. I felt I did okay. You’d obviously rather come on in different circumstances when there’s a bit more at stake but I just need to keep working hard in training and try to impress the manager enough to force myself into a game when it matters.”
Tonight’s match away to St Johnstone certainly matters as Hearts look to leapfrog the Perth side into fourth place in the Premiership. With the Edinburgh outfit having lost five of their last six games, it is not beyond possibility that head coach Ian Cathro may look to freshen up his midfield, with both Beith and Buaben pushing for a start.
“Hopefully, I’ll play a part against St Johnstone,” said Beith. “I just need to make sure I’m ready to try and make an impact on the game if I’m called upon. I’ve had a couple of conversations with the manager about what he wants from me so that’s clear in my mind. I need to focus on doing well in training and then take my opportunity when it comes along.”
While many promising young players struggle to do themselves justice when they are thrown in as teenagers, Beith feels he will be better equipped to handle the rigours of playing for Hearts as he is now more physically developed and has 34 first-team starts for Stenhousemuir and Stirling Albion under his belt from loan spells over the past three seasons.
“I’m at an age where I feel like my body’s ready to handle the Premiership,” said Beith, who has been featuring for the development team since returning from his most recent loan stint with the Binos in January.
“Being out on loan has helped me as well because I’ve learned about the physical side of the game.”