Exclusive: Jorge Grant holds Hearts management talks over game time as he reveals red card frustration
Hearts midfielder Jorge Grant has held talks with manager Robbie Neilson about getting more game time. The Englishman accepts only he can cement a regular starting berth, although two red cards earlier in the season did not help his cause.
Grant, 28, has made the starting line-up only once since a sending off against Motherwell eight games ago and spoke to Neilson about the situation. He told the Evening News that the manager was honest and encouraging.
“The gaffer is good. If you aren’t going to play and he feels like he needs to talk to you, then he will talk to you and tell you what you need to do,” said Grant, a summer signing from Peterborough United. “We’ve had chats previously and I feel the best thing I can do is do my stuff on the pitch. You can go into his office as many times as you want – I’m not that type of person anyway – but you need to show on the pitch that you should be starting.
“The only way I’m going to get starts is by coming on the pitch and effecting the game in a positive way. I felt I did that when I started against St Johnstone [last month], being involved in the first two goals. Then I came on and got an assist against Hibs. Obviously I want to play more, of course. Every player here wants to play. It’s a great club to play for so if I can get more starts, then brilliant. It’s down to me.
“After the St Johnstone game, we spoke about being more impactful throughout the game. He [Neilson] said I was really good for the first 35-40 minutes, but then after half-time I didn’t really effect the game. That’s what I need to work on to stay in the team. Goals and assists are what I was brought in for as an attacking midfielder.
“In 2022, that’s the least amount of football I’ve played in my career. Before that I played every game at every club. Not doing that in the past year has just made me hungrier to cement my place here.”
Grant received the first red cards of his career against FC Zurich in August and Motherwell in October. He received two cautions against the Swiss and then a straight dismissal for a challenge on Motherwell’s Callum Slattery. Both decisions left the midfielder frustrated.
“The tackle [against Motherwell] was just the way my leg ended up,” said Grant. “The Zurich one, well, the first challenge wasn't a yellow anyway. For the second one, I’m trying to do my best for the team and probably got a bit carried away. I’d gone 250-odd games in my career without a red card, and then I got two in ten.
“I’d never had to deal with that before, going into the changing-room early and just sitting there. It’s not a nice place to be but it does make you hungrier to play more. You want to make sure you help the team even more because you feel like you’ve let them down in that moment.”
Grant insisted he is not simply a nice midfield playmaker. “I have always had a switch in my game. I’m not just a pretty attacking player, I do want to do the other side of the game as well. Sometimes, when you’re an attacking player, you can mistime those. I feel you’ve got to have that side to you. You can’t be soft on the pitch because you will just get bullied.”
He became the victim last weekend when St Mirren’s Marcus Fraser was red carded for stamping on Grant’s knee unintentionally. Hearts meet the Paisley club again on Friday night at Tynecastle. “He tried to jump over the player I tackled and then landed on top of me. It was just a little knock,” explained Grant. “We knew last week how strong St Mirren are at home, but we are also very strong at Tynecastle so hopefully we can get three points.”