Patience is a virtue for Ben Garuccio right now. Not only is he itching to return to the Hearts first team, he is also waiting to learn whether Australia coach Graham Arnold will keep or discard him from the international squad.
The 23-year-old isn’t allowing either situation to overly stress him. His mantra is simple: Play well and good things will happen. After scoring a sublime free-kick for Hearts against Hibs in Monday’s reserve Edinburgh derby, he is eager to force his way back into Craig Levein’s senior side against Rangers this Sunday.
Garuccio started the season strongly but has been an unused substitute in three of Hearts’ last four fixtures. Demetri Mitchell’s return to Tynecastle Park has seen the on-loan Manchester United defender preferred at left-back recently.
Garuccio will wait his turn at club level and hope he makes Arnold’s 23-man cut for this month’s friendly in Kuwait.
Meantime, he continues offering glimpses of his defensive diligence and set-piece sorcery. Both those boxed were ticked inside the Oriam astrodome on Monday afternoon. The defender helped record a clean sheet and lashed a spectacular dipping free-kick over the Hibs wall and past goalkeeper Ofir Marciano for Hearts’ second goal.
“I put the valve down, although I don’t think that actually makes much of a difference. That’s the technique: Just hit the valve. It’s a technique I’ve practised for a long time. Maybe it’s the Umbro ball doing me a favour more than anything,” he smiled.
“It was good to get another 90 minutes in the legs. I enjoyed it, the boys gave a good performance and it’s always nice to beat that lot. I got back on the scoresheet and managed to influence the game, which was good. I suppose that’s what’s expected of us when we’re coming down from the first team so it’s nice to contribute.
“With every game you play in the reserves, you hope to show you are working hard and doing the right things. That’s all you can do. The manager has basically just said that, at the moment, we’ve got two good left-backs and that’s all it is.
“Last season it was a bit different because there wasn’t so much depth. This year, we probably have a second-string team full of players who could all comfortably play [for the first team] and do well in the league. It’s good to have that. I just need to keep working hard and hopefully get my foot back in the door.”
The reference to “that lot” highlights how Garuccio has quickly seized on Edinburgh’s football rivalry. “I haven’t seen it first-hand with the first team yet, but you hear about how fierce the rivalry is,” he said. “There are a few Aussies playing at Hibs as well, who I know, so I’m getting to hear about it and I’m looking forward to experiencing it with the first team.
“Even in the reserve team, you go out there and you want to win the game. You can feel it even on the pitch that it’s a derby. You still want to leave a bit in there on them, go in hard, win those challenges and win the game.”
The aim is to reinstate himself at senior level, either beside or instead of Mitchell, inset. The Englishman can operate as a winger ahead of Garuccio, but the Australian stressed he is also able to play further forward.
“I was a winger all of my younger years. I only became a left-back three or four years ago in my professional career. That’s something else I can add to a game. I think I can come on and go past players,” he explained.
“Me and Demi have only played a couple of games together so far but we can interchange. If I go forward, he can cover me and then we can stay like that for a couple of minutes. You’ve got that two-pronged attack down one side, which is nice.”
Joining Hearts from Adelaide United in June has already enhanced the player’s career. That is backed up by the fact he was called into the Australia squad for the first time last month for a training camp in Turkey.
“That was unbelievable. It was something I didn’t expect to happen so quickly after coming here,” said Garuccio. “It just shows the magnitude of the league – how good this league is, how good this club is and how well-regarded it is, even back in Australia. It’s nice to have that appreciation from back home.”
Were he in the Hearts first team right now, he would be more confident of making Arnold’s cut from 31 players down to 23. “Yeah, but I don’t think you can put too much pressure on yourself with that sort of thing. For me, the priority is just playing well,” he continued.
“You can’t think about what’s going to happen in a couple of weeks, a couple of months or next year. You just play each game and take each game as it comes. I know that sounds clichéd but that’s how it is. If you keep performing every week, the opportunities will come.
“Australia have a friendly in the Middle East and the boys are meeting up on the 8th, but I’ve yet to hear anything. I’m just waiting to see what the squad is. The training camp last month had 31 players involved, this time it’s 23. There will obviously be a few boys missing out from the previous camp.
“I’m just waiting to hear if I’ve made it. Hopefully we will know in the next couple of days. As I said at the start, first and foremost is club football. I just want to play well here. If I’m doing that and the team is doing well, anything can happen.”