Cameron Devlin: 'I was in tears getting UK visa - I watched Hearts beat Hibs 5-1 and now I want my dream to become reality'
Finding a more enthusiastic interviewee than Cameron Devlin might be difficult. His life literally transformed beyond recognition in the last month and he couldn’t be happier.
The Australian midfielder is one of Hearts’ latest signings ahead of Sunday’s Edinburgh derby with Hibs. He is living the dream after a chaotic summer involving three different clubs, playing at the Olympic Games, a stint in quarantine, a UK visa wait and emigrating to Edinburgh.
The outcome is precisely what he always wanted. In his own words, 23-year-old Devlin grew up in Sydney dreaming of playing in Europe. That explains the tears when Government officials approved his work permit for joining Hearts.
He left Wellington Phoenix for Newcastle Jets in June but five weeks later a transfer to Scotland was agreed. In between, he represented his country at the Olympics and had to isolate on returning to Australia.
Now there’s the small matter of a Hearts debut in a top-of-the-table derby at a sold-out Tynecastle Park. “It’s been a massive whirlwind, I haven’t had time to think,” said Devlin, speaking exclusively to the Evening News.
“I went from Wellington Phoenix to the Jets and I was really keen. Then I was at the Olympics and that was an unreal experience which I’ll remember for the rest of my life, even though I didn’t play much.
“As soon as I knew this move was definitely happening I was over here in the blink of an eye. Leaving family and friends was tough. I’m a big family man and it will be hard to see them because of Covid restrictions, but you need to follow your dream.
Two dreams as a kid
“The two dreams I’ve always had as a kid playing football in Australia were to play in Europe and represent my country. Putting on that badge is the pinnacle for anyone so I’d love to be called up by the Socceroos.
“I feel that being in Europe with Hearts is a perfect platform for me to hopefully get that call-up. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to join such a massive club that is known by football people back home. I want to grab this with both hands.”
The excruciating visa wait ended with an outpouring of emotion. Testimonials from Football Australia officials plus club coaches who worked with Devlin were submitted alongside a pile of paperwork to prove he should be regarded as an exceptional talent by the UK Home Office.
“I was nervous because you just don’t know. I was in tears when it came through,” he revealed. “I called my parents straight away and then I called Hearts, although it was the early hours over here. Within 48 hours of picking up the visa I was over here. I just had to pack my whole life up and go.
“The two women looking after me are Janine and Clare who work at Hearts. I told them the other day that they’ve now adopted me. They were always there when I was calling and messaging them. I think I’m a bit annoying so maybe they’ll get sick of me. Everyone at the club has been class and I can’t wait to get started.”
He comes across as a friendly, humble and conscientious type. Understandably, the unusual transfer process taking him from Wellington Phoenix to Hearts via Newcastle Jets brought slight pangs of guilt.
The two-year Jets contract Devlin signed included a release clause permitting a transfer to Europe for a five-figure sum in British pounds. Hearts triggered it almost immediately. Despite feeling slightly uncomfortable at bailing out without a single appearance in New South Wales, Devlin knew his life was about to change.
“It is awkward and I feel a bit bad because I signed for Newcastle with no intention of going anywhere,” he explained. “There was the clause in my contract because every young Australian’s dream is to go to Europe and I’m no different. This is what I want to do and they understood that, which is why they allowed that clause to be put in.
“The Jets fans were good because the football in Australia isn’t the same standard as Europe, although it’s getting better. They were frustrated because I was a signed player but I’m grateful how it worked out.”
Many Hearts fans want to know what type of player they are getting. In short, Devlin is a winner with a tenacious streak and no little energy who feels suited to Scottish football.
“I love to get on the ball and feed the attackers to do all the creative stuff,” he said. “I will drop in, pick up the ball and move it forward. Defensively, I like to get about the park, put in challenges, win the ball back and break up play. I try to work as hard as I can.
“The first conversation I had with the gaffer was about them being impressed with how I break up play. That is a strength and Hearts thought I could bring that to the team. The football here is high-paced, which will take some getting used to. It will only make me a better player but, as long as Hearts win and the fans are happy, then I’m happy.”
Should his new side garner three points this weekend, that happiness will become unadulterated euphoria. “Since the day I walked in, every staff member has talked about this big derby.
“I’ve Youtubed it and watched the 5-1 derby. I heard a lot about that from Ryan McGowan. He’s told me more than once that he scored in that game.
“I’m bursting to get going. I hadn’t trained for more than a month. I was in quarantine after the Olympics but now I’m in with the boys here and learning every day.
“Sunday will be something I’ve never experienced before, a top-of-the-table clash in a full stadium. Fingers crossed I can get some minutes and, more importantly, Hearts get the three points.”