Exclusive: Josh Ginnelly says he is interested in joining Hearts permanently
The winger is on loan from Preston North End until next summer and would be interested in a permanent move north if offered one.
His repertoire of tricks, pace and goalscoring have impressed the Hearts manager Robbie Neilson and supporters during three Betfred Cup ties and one league outing to date. Ginnelly will make his fifth Hearts appearance tonight at Arbroath.
His contract at Deepdale expires at the same time as the season-long loan agreement, rendering him a free agent. Hearts could offer him a contract before then.
“I don’t know what will happen yet. I love it here so we will see what comes maybe in January or after that. My main focus is just to do well for now,” said Ginnelly, speaking exclusively to the Evening News.
Asked if a longer stay at Tynecastle was in the back of his mind, he replied: “Yes, 100 per cent. I already love the club so we’ll see what happens.”
A burgeoning relationship with Neilson is a central factor in helping the Englishman feel so welcome in Edinburgh. “When I came up, even before I’d signed, I could see that he’s an honest gaffer,” said Ginnelly.
“For players like me, you need that. You don’t need someone telling you you’re doing all the right things but you aren’t playing. Robbie was straightforward with me and he has my utmost respect. I just want to put the performances in for him and the boys.”
Supporters, whilst unable to attend matches, have offered their own thoughts via social media and are excited by Ginnelly’s style. “I’ve seen a lot of the messages and it’s been nice. I think I’ve need that for my confidence.
“I’ve had a bad two years where I haven’t really played or fulfilled my potential. I don’t know the reason to be honest but it’s gone now. My focus now is on Hearts, winning the league and getting better with every game.
“Coming to a big club like this has been great for me. It’s got all the facilities, great staff and the boys have been brilliant. I’ve taken pointers off everyone and enjoyed learning every day.”
The surroundings at Tynecastle, and at the Oriam sports complex where Hearts train each day, are not normally associated with a team in the second tier of the Scottish football pyramid.
It was those facilities which helped Ginnelly to agree to a loan in the first place. “We’re not a second division club when you look at the size of the stadium and the fanbase,” he said.
“I think anyone would admit that. It’s a Premiership club in stature, definitely. Everyone within the club knows that themselves and we just have to get the club back to where it should be.”
Promotion may well persuade him that a permanent Hearts contract is worth signing next year, but for now he is content playing regularly. His direct approach appeals in a side which for too long lacked regular attacking panache.
“I was aware of that, yeah. When the manager brought me in, he told me what he wanted from me. I’ve basically just filled my boots since then,” said the 23-year-old.
“I want to thank the fans for their positive messages. Every one I see just gives me more confidence. Obviously they can’t get to the games just now but I know they’re still watching.
“If I can make it an entertaining game for them and go at people, then I’ll do that. Playing on the right side suits me. The gaffer wants crosses put into the box and that’s my job.
“It’s the same for Jordan [Roberts] and Elliott [Frear] on the other side. Every time the ball comes to us we are looking to get a delivery into the box for Boycie [Liam Boyce], Jamie [Walker], Naisy [Steven Naismith] and other people when they come on.
“We can rotate it at the same time. Robbo or Elliott might go on the right and I might go on the left. We can just keep mixing it up, we aren’t just a team with one trick.”
Nor are wingers told solely to create scoring opportunities in Neilson’s Hearts team. Ginnelly possesses an eye for goal and the ability to finish chances, as displayed in last week’s 6-2 win against Dundee.
Rippling netting is something he plans to do more of in Scotland. Early signs indicate that not many Championship defenders will be able to stop him without illegal means.
“I’ve set a few personal targets but my main target is just winning the games. That’s all I want. I want to win the league and I think we’re going in the right direction,” he explained.
“We’ve had a good start but there’s a lot more to do. We are just working hard to see where it takes us. I’m not divulging my personal targets, I keep them private.”
He can’t keep his nickname a secret, though. It is simply too obvious. When your surname is Ginnelly with a soft ‘G’, the moniker ‘Gino’ is yours for life.
“From the age of six or seven, that has stuck with me. It won’t be going anywhere any time soon.”
Gino Ginelli is a name synonymous with ice-cream, but Josh Ginnelly is adding some cool flavouring of his own to the Hearts team.