Exclusive: Cammy Devlin bemused by his situation at Hearts but won't complain as he addresses discipline
Australian midfielder is one of the most consistent players at Tynecastle
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Few people would argue that Cammy Devlin is presently one of Hearts' most consistent players. In fact, this is his strongest season since arriving at Tynecastle Park more than two years ago. He is as hungry, aggressive and energetic as ever, with added improvement in his technical game. So his omission from the starting line-up for both matches against Rangers recently perplexed more than the Australian midfielder. He did start against Livingston in between but was substituted at half-time.
Devlin won't be knocking head coach Steven Naismith's office door asking questions just yet. His priority is simply to ensure he is back in the team at Motherwell this weekend. "It's probably a question for the coaches rather than me," he said, speaking exclusively to the Edinburgh News. "It's frustrating because I feel I've been playing some really good stuff this season on a more consistent basis than previous years. I've been confident going into games. Everyone knows my strengths in terms of winning the ball but I feel I'm doing more for the team on the ball.
"Any player wants to play every game and I'm no different. I will keep working hard in every session to be playing in every single game. It's only the two Rangers games I haven't started so I can't really be stressing too much - but, being the person I am, that's something I do naturally, anyway. If you feel sorry for yourself and get down in the dumps, the only person you will harm is yourself.
"Naisy, Frankie [McAvoy] and Gordy [Forrest] make decisions based on what they think at the time and, as a player, you have to accept them. I'm not the sort of guy to be moaning and complaining, I just try to get on with it. I'm fully confident in myself. I feel this season has been my strongest, I've been really consistent in my performances, it's just about being ready for when I'm told to play again. As long as the team is winning, I'll be just as happy. Hopefully I can be in the team this weekend and, more importantly, we can get a win."
Playing devil's advocate momentarily, Devlin's disciplinary record this term stands out. Nine yellow cards in 16 appearances is evidence of a player who frequently pushes boundaries with officialdom. Whether or not that is a contributory factor in him being left out of big matches lately, tackling is a fundamental part of his game. Taking tenacity out of Devlin would be like taking dribbling out of his old World Cup pal Messi. He simply wouldn't be the same player.
"That's not ideal but, given the sort of player I am, it is going to happen, isn't it?" he remarked on his yellow card tally. "When I win my tackles it's unreal but obviously there is a fear that I mistime one and then it's a booking. Someone might be on the break and, just to avoid any kind of danger at all, you bring them down and take a booking for the team. If I have to do that then I'm going to be the first one to do it. I feel I'm a good team player and put my team first.
"It's a part of my game. I don't want to get yellow cards but if I take away my combative edge then I'm probably not going to be much of a player. I know my role within the team, what I'm good at and what other players are better at. I didn't get as many yellow cards last year and I never want to be suspended, but then you look on the other side: 'Is he maybe not going into as many tackles?' There are two sides to it. Part of my game is getting stuck in and winning anything I can for my team. Any player can mistime a tackle but I want to be involved in every game."
Devlin is again a notable absentee from the Australia squad named this week. He was also left out last month but is unclear whether his situation at Hearts is partly why. "I don't know if that's the reason or not. I'm devastated to not be in the national team again, it's so upsetting," he admitted. "It's only the two Rangers games I haven't started but, if you aren't playing for your club then that is obviously going to affect your selection for the national team. Especially for someone like me who hasn't been a starter for Australia. Not playing every single game is definitely not going to work in your favour."
The immediate priority is prising three points from Fir Park. Consistent form has eluded Hearts hitherto this term and Devlin would gratefully accept any kind of win on Saturday. "Inconsistent is probably the word. We have had a good week training after Sunday's result in the cup but now it's about looking forward," he explained.
"It's important to get a good result and good performance before the international break. Although, saying that, if you offered me the scenario of playing badly and still winning at Motherwell I'd definitely bite your hand off right now. Winning in this league is tough, especially away from home. You want good performances and playing to our structure, but scrappy wins you sometimes look back at the end of a season and think: 'God, what would have happened if we didn't win that one?' Through the festive season, picking up results will be vital."