Arnold told the 23-year-old to seize the opportunity to join Hearts in July whilst both men were in Japan with the Australian Olympic squad. Devlin promptly signed a three-year deal at Tynecastle Park and Arnold is convinced he can flourish in the cinch Premiership.
Having coached the player at Sydney FC three years ago, the experienced Arnold spoke exclusively to the Evening News about his future international prospects. He said he will not hesitate to promote Devlin to the Socceroos squad when the time is right because he will only improve in Scotland.
“I will monitor Cam and keep an eye on his development because I do believe he was playing at 50 or 60 per cent of his capabilities in Australia,” explained Arnold. “Coming to Scotland, you will see a big improvement in him.
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“There is a complete lack of minutes for players in Australia. Everywhere in the world, the football season runs for nine or ten months. We play for six and a half months and the kids don’t get enough football. Cam is a perfect example of that. He will only get better at Hearts.
“It’s good that he came to the Olympics and I think that was a massive step up for him. Joining Hearts is also a great step up for him. We have a good number of players in that position so I want Cam to settle at Hearts, do well there, keep doing what he is doing, and put himself on the radar.
“I have known him for a long time and I definitely know what his capabilities are. I have all the trust and faith in him that I would try him in any game at any time.
“It’s great to see that he is doing well at Hearts, the fans are loving it and he is really enjoying it. I had a text exchange with him not that long ago and he’s just having a ball.”
Devlin’s midfield energy has already endeared him to the Tynecastle support and made him a popular figure, which is precisely what Arnold predicted. Discussions between the pair in Tokyo centred around the player’s future after Hearts agreed a five-figure transfer fee to sign him from Newcastle Jets.
“I had conversations with him at the Olympics about his future,” said Arnold. “He told me there was interest from Hearts and I said: ‘Mate, grab it and grab it quickly. Scottish football will suit you down to the ground.’
“One of the biggest problems we have in Australia regarding football development is the number of games for younger players. There are only 26 rounds of matches per year, it’s nowhere near enough football. This is something I’ve been trying to drive as national team coach through the football federation.
“The federation are 100 per cent supportive because kids just don’t get enough games in our country. The competition only runs for six and a half months, there are long pre-seasons lasting about three months, so youngsters just don’t get to play enough football.
“With Cam coming to the Scottish Premiership, and playing cup football as well, he has a great chance of racking up 40-odd games in one season. Normally, in Australia, it would take him two years to do that.
“He was probably playing at 50 or 60 per cent of his capabilities in Australia, as a lot of young players are. There are a lot of good kids in Australia who have those qualities but they need to play more football. I think you will see a big improvement from Cam.”
Arnold only recently returned to his homeland after several months out of the country. He managed the Australian Olympic side at under-23 level and took the senior Socceroos for World Cup qualifiers.
Rather than fly home and enter mandatory Covid quarantine in between, he decided to stay abroad. He therefore remained on roughly the same time zone as his players, most of whom are based in Europe, and avoided the need to get out of bed at 4am to watch them play for their clubs like he would do when at home.
As a result, he has seen a lot of British football this season. Devlin’s arrival in Edinburgh added another name to a long list of Australians who ply their trade on these islands.
Arnold detailed the attributes which should ensure the midfielder grows in strength – they were evident several years ago in the youth system at Sydney FC.
“I had Cam at club level and he was always a kid I thought would develop a little bit later. I took him to the Olympics because I believe so much in his style of play. The one thing with Cam is that energy, work rate and mentality will always be there.
“He plays a very simple game, mostly a controlling game. He isn’t a creative player but he can control things. Whether he plays as a number six on his own or alongside someone else, it won’t matter who he comes up against. He doesn’t hold back against anyone.
“He puts his foot in and he gets stuck in every game. You always know when you coach him that you will get 100 per cent work rate, there is never a question about that with Cam Devlin.”