Hearts' Euan Henderson outlines his summer regime to be ready for Premiership
Euan Henderson’s attitude would endear him to any Hearts supporter. In fact, pretty much any football supporter.
The 20-year-old forward is demonstrating maturity beyond his years this summer by taking just one week off. He arranged with Hearts’ sports scientists to visit Riccarton three times a week for training and gymwork during the close season to ensure he stays in top condition.
Used to scampering away from opponents with that impressive turn of pace, he now wants to sprint clear of team-mates when pre-season training begins on June 15.
Henderson knows fitness and conditioning levels must increase with his club promoted to the Scottish Premiership. New signings will arrive over the coming weeks and competition for first-team places will intensify.
As an established member of the senior squad, and one of few recent academy graduates to play frequently for Hearts this season, his next aim is to become a first-team regular in the top flight. Henderson explained his thinking in an exclusive interview with the Evening News.
“I’ve agreed with the sports scientists that I’ll go in over the summer. I’m going to take one week off and then go in three days a week,” he said. “I’ll do some gymwork and make sure I’m still fit and raring to go when training starts back. I hope to have a head start on other boys. I’m really keen to do that and keep my momentum going.
Top players don’t take time off
“You see the top guys and they don’t take any time off. If they’re the best, you want to replicate what they do. I want to improve as a player season after season. I want to come back fitter and give myself the best opportunity to really kick on.
“If you go away for the summer and come back unfit, you’re a step behind. Hopefully this works for me. It’s all good for me and will prepare me in the right way.
“Hopefully I can get games at the start of the season and show what I can do. We will see how things go but I’m very confident going into next season.”
That solitary week off might tempt less-devoted footballers to blitz the beer, takeaways and nights out during such a small window of opportunity. Go hard or go home, kind of thing. Henderson would rather just go home – until it’s time to train again.
“I’ll play golf and play my Playstation while I’m off,” he smiled. “That’s another thing, you can’t go anywhere like abroad so there’s no harm going into the training ground over the summer and doing extra stuff. I’m happy with that arrangement. Instead of being stuck at home, I get to go in and train.”
His career is very much still at the developmental stage but naivety is not an issue. Part of his reason for refusing to take an extended break stems from knowledge that Hearts will make several new signings between now and the start of next season.
Each one will be brought in with the intention of making some level of impact in the Premiership. “That’s football. New competition comes in every season so you need to make sure you’re at it from the word ‘go’,” said Henderson.
“You want to get yourself in front of those guys who come in. I’m sure they will want to make an impression coming to a new club – especially a big club like Hearts. I’ll be ready for it.”
He finished the Championship campaign with two goals in his last three appearances and appeared to be reaching peak form. Perhaps there might have been more goals after the chances which came his way in the final game at Raith Rovers on Friday night.
You score some, not others
Henderson isn’t one to dwell too much on what might have been. As it is, he left Stark’s Park content enough with one goal and winning a penalty which Craig Halkett sent over the crossbar in Hearts’ 4-0 victory.
“I probably could have taken the penalty but we agreed Halks could take it because he hadn’t scored for such a long time. You score some and not others,” said Henderson.
“You just try to get on with the game and forget about it. You just try to think about the next chance you get and putting that one away. I definitely felt I could have got more on Friday but it happens.”
There is a definite frustration that Hearts’ campaign is now over. Many associated with the Edinburgh club simply wanted their enforced spell in the Championship to be over as quickly as possible following last year’s well-publicised demotion.
Not that Henderson was any different but he did show the best side of himself in those final few fixtures. Bolting another month or so onto the calendar would have held a certain amount of appeal for the player.
“Yes, I feel that [frustration] a wee bit. You don’t want games to finish when you’re picking up a bit of form and getting momentum,” he acknowledged. “I’ll be working hard over the summer so hopefully I can keep that momentum going into next season.
“We want to go up to the Premiership feeling good about ourselves and I think we did that with the way we ended the season. I’m looking forward to it.”
The next generation of Riccarton youth academy pupils is starting to emerge, witness the brief introductions of Scott McGill and Finlay Pollock this season. If they have aspirations to cement themselves in the Hearts squad, reaching Euan Henderson’s levels of dedication wouldn’t be a bad approach.