Exclusive: Jamie Walker reveals his plan for the future as he answers question on Hearts exit
“What’s in your mind at the moment? What do you want to do next season?” was the query. On loan at Bradford City from Hearts and out of contract this summer, Walker must contemplate the probability that he will leave Tynecastle Park.
It isn’t what he wants. However, sitting on the substitutes’ bench or in the stand is no use to a goalscoring talisman approaching 29. “It’s a tough question,” he admits, bringing that long pause to an end.
“If Hearts were getting into the Europa League next year and going with a bigger squad, I don’t know. You’d probably need to ask [manager] Robbie Neilson. If they wanted to offer me something then I would be open to doing that. It’s my home, that’s where my wife and kids are.
“Bradford is a big club. If they were going to offer me something that suited me and my family, then I’d also be open to doing that. I just need to see what options are on the table. You never know what options might come up in League One down here or somewhere else.
“Me and my agent will speak. My focus is on getting back into the Bradford team. Basically, right now you are thinking about the summer. It’s always at the back of your mind.”
At the moment there is no deal on the table from Hearts. Walker made only four league appearances during the first half of the campaign, all as a substitute, hence the decision to accept Bradford’s loan offer back in January.
He needed to play in order to showcase his talents and effectively put himself in the shop window for the summer. Fellow Scot Derek Adams did the loan deal before being replaced as manager at Valley Parade by Mark Hughes.
Walker remains solely focused on game time amid the upheaval. For him, this move is the means to an end. His plan is to attract attention from as many teams as possible and then choose the best option for next season.
“Yeah, that was the be-all-and-end-all, really,” he says. “I could maybe have stayed at Hearts and got in the team. I scored against Dundee in my second last game so who knows? I might have played a lot more than I did in the first part of the season, but I didn't want to take that risk.
“I didn’t want to not play for another six months and then maybe not have as many options at the end of the season. The aim was to get out and play. I played the first seven games for Bradford, then I got a hamstring injury, then came the change in manager. It’s good to be back on the pitch now.”
He left Tynecastle briefly in 2018 to join Wigan Athletic so the actual departure wasn’t exactly a new experience. This time, circumstances were different. Emotions ran high as the local lad buckled the seat belt to drive south knowing that might be him done in Gorgie.
“It was tough. All my family and friends support Hearts and I’ve supported them all my life,” explains Walker. “I played a lot of games there and scored more than 50 goals. If it is the end for me, I’m proud of what I achieved there.
“When I was a nine-year-old kid in the academy, I never believed I could have achieved all that. I don’t have many regrets except from probably the two cup finals we lost [St Mirren in 2013 and Celtic in 2020]. It would have been nice to get a major trophy but that’s football.
“It was a tough decision to leave but for me, my kids and my family, it was one I had to make. I decided to go on loan to try and play.
“Robbie wanted me to stay but I wasn’t really playing. I’ll be 29 in the summer so I needed to get out and play football. I want to prove I’m fit, score a few goals, put in good performances for Bradford and hopefully get something in the summer.
“My game is all about goals and assists. Even when I’m not at my best, I always back myself to score if I get a chance.”
Playing under a British footballing luminary should help. Hughes has only ever managed in England’s top two divisions, plus five years in charge of his country, Wales. His arrival at Bradford took people by surprise.
“All the boys were in the changing room and there’s a wee window where you can see out,” recalls Walker. “We were looking out thinking: ‘Who’s it going to be?’ Steve Evans and a few other names who had been about League Two were mentioned. Then Mark Hughes walks in.
“We couldn’t believe it. Hopefully I can learn from him, you can see what he’s trying to do. I don’t think he has ever managed in this league so it shows how big Bradford is. There are a lot of similarities to Hearts.
“There’s a big fanbase with big expectations. If you asked most of the fans, I think they would say they don’t expect to be in League Two. I’m used to those demands from Hearts.
“If it was a smaller club than Bradford in League Two, I’d probably just have gone on loan in Scotland. The reason I came was because it’s a big club with those expectations.”