Cameron Devlin pushing for a start at Hearts as he reveals Australians who inspire him
Behind the smiles and warmth lies a steely interior which has driven Cameron Devlin from Seymour Shaw Park, Sydney, to Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh.
He is not here simply to make up the numbers. Nor is he here as a “project” player needing developed to cope in the unforgiving Scottish Premiership. This diminutive Australian is ready to make an impact and has flown halfway round the planet to do so.
Devlin is in contention to start Hearts’ league match against Livingston today having enjoyed a 34-minute debut as a substitute at Ross County last weekend. The energy, tenacity and composure he injected hints at a valuable signing.
He isn’t short of compatriot predecessors in British football but, for the 23-year-old, playing in Europe was a childhood ambition.
From Sutherland Sharks, through the youth systems of Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC, to Wellington Phoenix and, briefly, Newcastle Jets, he carried the same motivation to reach this continent.
“I think growing up for any Aussie, Tim Cahill was a bit of a legend,” smirks Devlin. “Obviously he’s not in my position. Seeing the sort of players that have come from similar paths to me, obviously I always wanted to play in Australia and make a name for myself over there then make a move, that’s something I’ve been lucky enough to do.
“Players like Tom Rogic, who have come over and done really well for himself. He’s at a very big club and doing well.
“Aaron Mooy was one I looked up to in terms of how he went about his career. He started off with not much of a name in Australia and now he’s played in the Premier League, so he’s probably our best and most consistent player in the Socceroos.
“They’re a couple that I really do look up to, but to play for your country is pretty special. They’ve all got their own story and their own path, they’ve all done really well to get there and hopefully I can follow them.
“I’ve said before, if there were opportunities to come to Europe, come to Hearts, not any club, but to a nice pathway I would’ve jumped at it.
“I think for any Australian you just want to get into Europe, because of the market, not only for the national team. In Australia there are only 12 teams. No disrespect to the Australian League because that’s the only reason I’m here. It’s done so much for me.
“It’s a good league, there’s some great players and great coaches there, but in Europe there are hundreds and thousands of professional teams.
“You’ve got to jump at the opportunity, and I think I was just one of the lucky ones that Hearts, a club I knew before, came in for me. They’re such a big club, with a massive history and a massive fanbase.
“The boys that are here now, they’re all good players, we train at such a high standard, the staff have been class with me as well and I just feel grateful to have the opportunity to be at Hearts.”
A member of the Australian Olympic squad this summer, Devlin hopes national coach Graham Arnold will monitor his progress in Scotland. Arnold took charge of the Olyroos in Japan.
“He knows me before from Sydney FC days when he was the head coach there,” explains the player. “Arnie’s a great coach, but the only way I’m going to get there is to play well at Hearts, otherwise I won’t have a chance.”
Saying you are an Olympian is “pretty cool” by Devlin’s own admission. He appeared only once in Japan – against Egypt – and had a watching brief the rest of the time.
“It was an unbelievable experience. I am very grateful I got that opportunity,” he says. “I was laughing with the boys the other day because I was in the stand for the Spain game and there were times I was happy about that!
“The boys did well, we only lost in the last ten minutes and felt we should have got a draw. But it was an unbelievable experience to see those players up close. They are freaks, to be honest. Pedri is incredible.”
Speed of the game
What he learned will be put into practice in a maroon shirt, although Devlin won’t change his game too much. “The gaffer has said to bring the attributes that got me here in the first place, just play my own game,” he says.
“Obviously the speed of the game is a lot quicker than I have experienced back home. I only got half an hour last weekend and it was the back end of the game but the speed was quicker. It was a lot more frantic and there was a lot more pressing.
“For me that’s going to make me a better player. It will make me move the ball on quicker and think two steps ahead, which is something I need to do if I want to go to the next level.
“So there are parts I will have to adapt but I think it is also important to stick to what I do best and get around the park as much as I can. There are parts I will need to adapt to and that will come with time.”
He is also adapting off the field having moved into his own apartment last week. “I am loving it, the city is beautiful. I had been told that by Aussies who had travelled here and stopped over, not for football.
“A lot say it’s their favourite city and I don’t blame them one little bit. I have tried to get about as much as I can to see what’s about and try the restaurants and all that sort of stuff.
“It’s a beautiful city when the weather is good. I’m very happy, especially now I am in my place. I’ve got a home to go back to.”