Cammy Devlin reveals the areas of his game he must improve and what Hearts are doing about it
Cammy Devlin has experienced a World Cup, played for his country and sampled European group-stage football in recent months. Season 2022/23 has been the most rewarding and productive of his career so far by some distance. Nonetheless, there is no hint of any big-time attitude from the amiable Australian.
He is still more than humble enough to appreciate the need for individual improvement. Hearts face three season-defining matches in the next week – home matches against Aberdeen this Saturday and Hibs next Saturday bookending a visit to Rangers – and Devlin’s focus is firmly on those. The bigger picture centres around addressing weaknesses in his game to become an all-round better footballer.
Video sessions with Riccarton coaching staff have identified areas to work on. Devlin fully agrees that, as a player, he is far from the finished article. He is nearing the end of his second season in Scottish football and will turn 25 next month, so time is very much on his side.
In an exclusive Evening News interview, he revealed details of discussions with the interim Hearts manager Steven Naismith and what specifically he was told to work on. “He has been very demanding of me, which I think I need,” said the midfielder. “There is so much in my game that I need to improve. I know I need to improve. I’ve spoken to Naisy, Gordy [Forrest] and Frankie [McAvoy] in depth. Naisy wants me to be better with the ball, in my movements, my timing and positioning.
“It’s the little things that you don’t really think of. He has pulled me up in videos. The timing of your movements can effect the game so much. It can change the whole dynamic of us getting out and beating a press or, potentially, getting boxed in. I know within myself that there is so much I need to work on and the coaches are helping me.”
Personal video analysis takes place with every player in top-level football nowadays and Devlin is grateful for any constructive examination of his game. “If you aren’t improving after that then you probably aren’t listening,” he added. “I’m my own harshest critic. I know when I’ve done well or had a bad game. I watch all the games and all my clips. Working with Naisy, we’ve been diving deeper into my game and picking out things I maybe wasn’t thinking of.”
Naismith’s attacking philosophy seems to suit the energetic Devlin. Tenacity is one part of his game that probably does not need any attention. Hearts’ two home performances since Naismith took charge earned a 6-1 win against Ross County and plenty praise against Celtic despite a 2-0 loss following Alex Cochrane’s disputed red card.
Those appear to be the benchmark ahead of Aberdeen’s trip to Gorgie. The hosts simply must win to maintain any hope of finishing third in the Premiership. The Pittodrie club currently occupy that position with a five-point advantage over Saturday’s opponents.
“The way Naisy wants us to play, you saw it in the Ross County game and the Celtic game. That Celtic game showed we can do it against the best team in Scotland. That’s what he is wanting,” stressed Devlin. “Those games were the ones where we showed that best. That’s the way we need to play.
“The energy needs to come out, playing forward passes, and that’s something I know I need to do a lot more of. If we play like that, it gives us the best chance of winning the game.
“You are expected to get a result every week at Hearts. Pressure comes with the club here. There’s no hiding from the fact that Saturday is a massive game for our season. If you are professional preparing for this game, that means you aren’t preparing properly for the others. You treat it the same. Naisy has been very clear on what he wants and how he wants us to play.”
In addition to home comforts and the sizeable crowd behind them, Hearts may well benefit from an Aberdeen injury. Captain Graeme Shinnie will serve the final match of a four-game ban this weekend, but top goalscorer Duk limped off holding his hamstring during the second half of last week’s goalless draw with Hibs. There is concern in the north east that he could miss Saturday as he is rated touch-and-go.
“You would never wish an injury on anyone, although people might not agree with me given the way I go into tackles,” smirked Devlin. “Injuries are a part of the game you wish you could remove for everyone, team-mates and opponents. The biggest thing for us is being at home.
“We had a sold-out away end at St Mirren last week with fans in their numbers and full of voice but we didn’t get the result we wanted. That was disappointing to draw 2-2. Now we are back at home and they will be heard again. We are usually quite strong at home and it’s about us. If we put our gameplan into practice, then we fully believe we can win the game.”
Devlin’s own displays are likely to be assessed closely by the Australia national coach Graham Arnold ahead of summer friendly matches. The player is keen to augment his international experience. “The only way you get selected is by performing for your club,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play a few times now but it’s up to me to put my name in Graham Arnold’s face a bit more often. Right now, the most important thing is these three Hearts games. It's basically three [cup] finals to finish the season strongly.”