Hearts coach and Airdrie striker Dale Carrick reveals his loyalties for Scottish Cup tie
Forward explains his emotions as an employee of both clubs
Dale Carrick already knows his club are heading out of the Scottish Cup. It is an inevitable consequence of working for both Hearts and Airdrieonians, who meet in the fourth round at Tynecastle Park on Saturday.
Shining up front for the Diamonds whilst coaching young diamonds at Riccarton gives the 26-year-old a foot in both camps and a unique perspective on this weekend’s tie.
Carrick’s last game at Tynecastle was five and a half years ago. He progressed from Under-12s to first team at Hearts and his three-year senior career there included cup finals, administration, relegation, a Championship title win and Europa League ties against Liverpool.
He now splits his week coaching Hearts Under-14s, Hearts Community kids and training with Airdrie. “Football every single day,” he says. As if that wasn’t enough, he is also studying sports psychology at Napier University.
Getting inside the Hearts players’ minds is his main priority this week, for his loyalties on Saturday lie firmly with Airdrie. “It will be an interesting one because I’ll be getting a bit of stick from the coaches I work with at Hearts. My loyalties will be with Airdrie on the day because that’s who I play for,” explains Carrick.
“It’s an opportunity for me to play against Hearts, which I haven’t really had since I left. I was on the bench for one game when I was at Kilmarnock.”
He makes no apology about trying to capitalise on Hearts’ current fragilities to help complete a cup upset. He knows first-hand the atmosphere within the club and what it is like fighting relegation from the Ladbrokes Premiership.
“It’s tough to try and change what is happening at the moment. I can understand how tough it is to try to scrape and grind. Sometimes quality isn’t enough it’s about how hard you fight for points.
“It’s usually the team which works the hardest that tends to win the game. Quality can define it but if you have that work ethic first, you have a better chance of winning the game.
“Because they know what the atmosphere is like at Hearts, I think that will stand our boys in good stead. They have seen everything that is happening with Hearts in the league so this is a good opportunity in the cup. It gives us faith we can get something from the game.
“From the Hearts side, it’s an opportunity for the people I work with to see me play. When I play for Airdrie, they are usually coaching. Most of the boys I coach have season tickets at Tynecastle so no doubt I’ll be hearing from them. I’m was wondering if I would be banished from the academy.”
Going from a full-time contract at Livingston to part-time at Airdrie has allowed Carrick time to develop as a coach and further his studies. He still looks back fondly on his time in maroon.
“Making my debut [against St Johnstone in 2012] was a highlight,” he recalls. “To go all the way to the first team from the Under-12s was probably my biggest achievement. I played in both legs against Liverpool a couple of weeks later.
The second leg down at Anfield was something very special. When Temps scored, everything erupted. I thought ‘we’ve got a real chance here’. Liverpool had Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, though.”
Carrick is one of League One’s most prolific strikers as Airdrie, under manager Ian Murray, challenge for promotion. He has 12 goals in 29 matches this season. Only Clyde’s David Goodwillie has more. How would he react to scoring against Hearts?
"I would be happy but I have a lot of happy memories at Tynecastle. It would be a bit emotional. There will be a lot of banter. People on both sides are saying ‘don’t score against us’ so I’m looking forward to it.”