Go into Callum Paterson’s house and you will see photographs of that goal. Switch on his laptop and the desktop wallpaper is that goal. You get the impression he has a looped DVD running somewhere upstairs, constantly replaying that goal. In case you’ve been on the moon since August, that goal is the header which beat Hibs at Tynecastle.
Paterson manoeuvred himself towards the front post to meet Dylan McGowan’s cross and head home for a victory dance in the Gorgie sunshine on what remains the greatest day of his young life so far. He has just turned 19 and already has an experience some professional footballers never achieve – scoring the winner against their club’s greatest rivals.
He is likely to feature prominently at Easter Road this evening when the teams meet again, this time in an eagerly-anticipated Scottish League Cup quarter-final. Paterson will enter the Hibs cauldron fully mindful of the damage he is capable of inflicting upon them. “That’s the career highlight. In fact, it’s the highlight of my life so far,” he told the Evening News.
“I’ve watched the derby goal back too many times to be honest. It’s the screensaver on my laptop, my mum’s got the picture, everything. That moment will come with me everywhere for the rest of my life. I just hope I can get another one. Hibs know I’m alright in the air so they’re going to have to try and get a wee bit tighter. I don’t think they underestimated me last time, though.”
Tonight, he goes for the encore. Yet the setting and backdrop have changed significantly since that warm August afternoon when Hearts’ charge for survival in the Scottish Premiership seemed to gather pace. Since then, the sunshine has been replaced by dark clouds; the optimism by doubt and perhaps even fear in some quarters.
Hearts are now 15 points adrift at the bottom of the league having not won since August in any competition without the aid of penalties. Form has slumped dramatically and the players would be forgiven for relishing the change in competition for a bit of freshness. Hibs, in contrast, have won five of their ten matches since losing at Tynecastle.
Paterson echoed the sentiments of his assistant manager, Billy Brown, with the notion that it is Hibs, rather than Hearts, bearing the weight of expectation tonight. “We’re under no pressure at all. We’re bottom of the table and we’re all young, just trying to prove our point,” he stressed.
“We’ve got no pressure on us at all and I see that as an advantage. When you play with pressure, you’re always uptight and wondering what you’re going to do next. When there’s no pressure, you don’t really think about how the game is going to go. You just think about playing properly.
“The boys in our dressing room all have the ability and the skill. If they just relax and play then we’ll be fine. It’s not great losing so many games in a row, but we’re still young and trying to stick with it. We just need to play a wee bit better. The breaks of the ball on the park haven’t been going for us, so hopefully that evens out a bit tonight.”
Having started every match this season for Hearts, Paterson found himself relegated to the substitutes’ bench as the poor run continued at the weekend with a 2-0 loss at Kilmarnock. An injury to Ryan Stevenson means he is likely to be immediately reinstated to the starting line-up.
“Obviously it was disappointing to be dropped, but the manager was trying something new to try and get a result,” explained Paterson. “Hopefully I’m back in now that Ryan is injured.
“I’ll try and take what I’ve been doing in previous games into this game. Being left out just makes you more hungry really. It gave me a rest, but, more importantly, it gave me more desire to fight harder and get back in the team.
“I’m not feeling it physically. Last year was the same, so I’m kind of used to it now. The demands of changing from under-19 level to first-team level are obviously massive, but I’ve been through it all last season and I’m used to it.”
Paterson has two previous experiences of playing at Easter Road. He featured in a 1-1 league draw there early last season and the 1-0 Scottish Cup fourth-round defeat before injury ended his campaign prematurely.
For others, such as 17-year-old Jordan McGhee, the feeling of competing in a derby match in Leith will be completely new. “I’ve got the upper hand on Jordan in that regard but he’ll be fine. He’s used to playing in all the big games just now,” smiled Paterson.
“My experiences of Easter Road haven’t been great. The fact this game is a cup match makes it more lively because everybody has something to fight for. Do you want to get into the next round, or do you not want to get into the next round? It’s totally different from a league game.
“It will be frantic, it’s the same in every derby, and this one’s a cup game, so it builds up and builds up. Anything can happen even though we’ve lost a few games recently.
“It’s a different kind of atmosphere at Easter Road, but the atmosphere is always good in a derby, no matter where you play. I’m really looking forward to this one. I’m pretty confident of repeating that header I scored in the first game.”
It would be difficult to dislodge the elation Paterson felt that afternoon. Although this is a knockout tie, and a place in the League Cup semi-finals is at stake.