Hearts’ Callumn Morrison: I’m staying behind at training to improve crossing

Callumn Morrison takes on Livingston's Shaun Byrne during Hearts' 1-0 win in the Scottish Cup. Pic: SNS
Callumn Morrison takes on Livingston's Shaun Byrne during Hearts' 1-0 win in the Scottish Cup. Pic: SNS
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The arrival of David Vanecek and the impending return of Uche Ikpeazu means Hearts wingers will soon have two gargantuan targets for their crosses. So it is encouraging to know Callumn Morrison stays behind every day after training to work on that very skill.

Striving for perfection is second-nature to the 19-year-old. He spends time after each session at Riccarton delivering cross ball after cross ball, honing technique to give himself an edge. When you are involved in such a competitive first-team squad, there is no room for complacency.

Morrison was Hearts’ most dangerous attacking threat in Sunday’s Scottish Cup win over Livingston and is expected to keep his place when Dundee arrive at Tynecastle Park on league duty tonight.

The player feels his crossing wasn’t quite up to standard at the weekend and is determined to improve.

“I like to be direct. That’s my game,” he said in an exclusive Evening News interview. “My end product wasn’t the best but I’m practising that every day in training, so it’s getting better and better. The manager likes me crossing the ball, although he hasn’t really said much to me about practising it. I just like to do that bit extra at the end of training and better myself.

“I’ll stay behind with Jon Daly [Hearts first-team coach] for a while and a few of the other players get involved as well. It’s just a worthwhile thing to do. I tried to get as many balls into the box as I could on Sunday but I overhit a few.

“There is a lot of competition for places in the squad. I know I’ve got to be on my game week in and week out. If I’m not, somebody else is going to step into my place and I don’t want that to happen. No-one keeps their place unless you play well.”

A total of 26 senior appearances so far this term indicate he must be doing something right. Exactly 12 months ago, Morrison had just finished a loan spell in League Two with Stirling Albion. He was to spend the second half of the campaign in the Championship on another loan agreement, this time with Brechin City. The rapid ascent into Hearts’ first team since last summer surprises him.

“If you said to me this time last season that I’d make all these appearances in the first team, I’d probably just stand and laugh at you. I just didn’t expect it. I’ve come in and done what I can do. I’ve taken my chance but I need to keep doing it.

“I definitely didn’t expect to start on Sunday. I just worked hard during the week in training and, obviously, the gaffer has shown a bit of faith in me again. I just need to go out there and perform well, which I think I did against Livingston.

“It wasn’t an easy tie. Livingston are a big physical team but the boys were definitely up for it to try and get revenge for the last time. We dug in, Sean [Clare] produced a good finish and we got through to the next round. We’ve had to recover, eat well and sleep well to be ready for the game tonight.”

One thing which has so far eluded him is a goal in maroon. He scored eight times in 16 games for Stirling last season and is eager to make the breakthrough in the top flight. A goal-line clearance by Livingston captain Craig Halkett denied Morrison at the weekend. He explained how he has been forced into a mid-season adjustment of targets.

“I set a target at the start of the season to reach six goals. Now, I’d say I’m looking to get three. My aim for the end of the season is to get into the first-team dressing room and just get as many appearances as I can. I’d like to get one of the club awards as well.”

That mention of dressing-room status confirms he is still officially a reserve player who changes amongst the youths and second-string each day before training. However, he is a first-team member in all but name and will continue striving for a changing-room promotion.

“I’m still changing in there [with the reserves] just now,” said Morrison. “I still have my daily jobs to do, which I don’t mind doing. They keep me ticking over in the morning.

“The boys do give me a bit of stick, especially for my gear, but I can take it on the chin and give a bit back. They don’t like my tracksuits. I won’t let them target me, though. I’ll fight my case and bite back.”

That kind of perseverance typifies him. If Vanecek and Ikpeazu are scoring goals between now and May, chances are Morrison’s training-ground work will have paid off.