Exclusive: Harry Cochrane opens up on leaving Hearts, Juventus interest and putting on weight as he seeks a new club
Before answering questions on previous interest from Juventus, Harry Cochrane is open and honest about why he is leaving Hearts after seven years.
The midfielder made just one senior appearance in maroon in the last two seasons and is desperate for regular first-team football. He knew that wouldn’t come at Tynecastle Park and decided to reject the offer of a one-year contract extension.
He is now a free agent at the age of 20. Once the apple of former manager Craig Levein’s eye who drew attention from the aforementioned Italian giants, Cochrane is embarking on a new chapter of his still-fledgling football career.
Loans at Dunfermline and Montrose supplemented his experience as he dropped down the Hearts pecking order. Now he is awaiting offers to join a new club.
“I’ve only played one or two games for Hearts in the last couple of years. I felt I wouldn’t get much game time, if any, if I stayed. When I was offered another year, I thought I’d be better off trying to find something else,” he said in an exclusive Evening News interview.
“I want to go somewhere I can play first-team games. I’m open to anything. You’re never guaranteed games at any club unless you’re Neymar or somebody like that. I just want to be given a chance.
“I’ve been thinking about leaving for a while and my last day at Hearts was sad. I’d been there seven years. I wasn’t greetin’ on my last day but it was definitely emotional. It was the same when I left Rangers when I was wee.
“Both decisions to leave Rangers and Hearts have been based on game time. That’s the most important thing for me. Now I’m more excited to see where I can go.”
Getting it tight from Dad
It irks Cochrane that he remains best known for that goal against Celtic in a 4-0 Hearts win back in 2017. His father isn't too chuffed about it either, apparently.
“The thing that worries me is it’s coming up four years since that Celtic game. I don’t really like looking back on it too much,” admitted the player. “My dad always tells me I need to score more goals. I’ve only scored one and that’s not good enough for a centre midfielder. I get it tight off my dad about that.
“When people talk to me, that’s the first thing they mention. I’ll never forget that moment, it’s the best day of my career so far, but I need to go somewhere I can play and try to create more moments like that for myself.”
A 16-year-old scoring in such a momentous victory to end Celtic’s 69-game unbeaten domestic run was always going to cause ructions. That they reached Turin was a slight surprise, not least to Cochrane and his family.
Juventus dispatched a representative to Scotland early in 2018 as they explored the possibility of a move for the Riccarton academy graduate. The Italians viewed him as a prodigy with the potential to develop further in their youth team.
Meetings took place in secret regarding a transfer which could have been worth seven figures to Hearts if it progressed. However, negotiations eventually petered out.
“I remember my dad coming into my room,” recalled Cochrane. “The first thing he said was: ‘Don’t be getting your hopes up, we don’t know how much truth is in it. Juventus have phoned.’
“I wasn’t really involved in it that much. It was more my mum and dad dealing with it because I was only 16 at the time. I didn’t really hear much more about it and it eventually fizzled out.
“Hearing your name mentioned with teams like that, I wasn’t sure whether to believe it or not. My dad told me not to get my hopes up. I was like: ‘It cannae be.’ It didn’t distract me, I was just focused on playing with Hearts.
"Obviously it didn’t work out, I stayed at Hearts and played about eight or ten games the season after. It’s still okay for being 17 but that’s still not enough for me. I experienced a lot very early but I genuinely don’t think that's a bad thing.
“I don’t have any expectations, I’m just desperate to play first-team football. That didn’t happen latterly at Hearts. It’s the one thing I’m worried about when I join another team – getting a chance to play.”
He finished this season with 15 appearances for League One Montrose and deemed the loan spell a worthwhile exercise. It is fair to say he hopes to play at a higher level next term. “When I first got the phonecall from the gaffer at Montrose [Stewart Petrie], I was a bit hesitant,” said Cochrane.
“I thought it would be a lot of long-ball stuff in League One, which doesn’t really suit me. But Montrose really got the ball down and played some good football. I’m not saying we played like Barcelona because we didn’t, but I was impressed. I definitely enjoyed it there and it was worth it.”
Any club taking him on for season 2021/22 will know Hearts can claim a six-figure development fee. New employers can expect a player with improved physique and athleticism. Conditioning work was always a challenge for the slender midfielder as he progressed through the Hearts academy, although he may have uncovered a solution.
“There are a few things going about but no proper interest as yet [from clubs]. I’m doing one-to-one coaching to keep my fitness up, so I’ll wait to see what comes up,” explained Cochrane.
“Believe it or not I’ve started putting on weight. I’m eating fish at night and other meals in the house. Now it’s about continuing to eat what I’m eating and I’ll start to batter the gym. Hopefully I’ll come back next season a bit bigger.”