Craig Levein believes Harry Cochrane will get more benefit from being around Hearts’ first team over the next week than he would have from going away with Scotland Under-17s.
The 16-year-old midfielder, who has started the Tynecastle side’s last two matches, has been pulled out of the national team squad for their European Championship qualifiers against Andorra, Estonia and Denmark as Levein sees him as part of his plans for Premiership fixtures against St Johnstone, Hibs and Rangers over the next eight days.
“I suppose it’s a compliment to Harry that we’ve taken him out of the international set-up,” said the manager. “That means he’s in my thoughts for playing. If he’s not starting he’ll be on the bench. Harry has played more international matches than he has first-team matches.
“The experience of being involved and perhaps playing in the first team at this minute in his career is more valuable than playing an international game. People might disagree with that. But he’s not going to be in the team all season – once we get Arnaud Djoum and Don Cowie back then he’s going to be back playing for the 20s or maybe even the under-17s, which will be a test for him.
“Most kids get opportunities on the back of suspensions or injuries and Harry is the same. We’ve had problems in the midfield area but he played some games in pre-season for Ian (Cathro). He played against St Johnstone and did excellently, and also Linfield. Okay, he is lightweight but his brain is really sharp. He’s done really well.”
Cochrane is set to be fit to face Saints tomorrow despite being forced off at half-time against Ross County last weekend after sustaining a gash to the ankle in a challenge with Craig Curran.
“You have to take care of him – I’m conscious of that,” said Levein. “He got hurt on Saturday when an experienced pro wouldn’t have. An older player would have seen it coming.
“But he’s a kid, he’s not streetwise. So, when I see that, I do think: ‘Ooh …’ But he’s playing because he’s good. It’s a compliment to him that I’m not playing a senior player out of position, but picking him. He’s capable – he’s just weak. His brain is quick enough but he’s not physically strong enough to avoid challenges, so he needs to move the ball much quicker than everybody else. And he’s capable of doing that.”