HEARTS manager Gary Locke is adamant there’s no chance of inspirational midfielder Jamie Hamill being adversely affected by the recent on-field controversies in which he has been embroiled.
Hamill, one of Hearts’ top performers so far this season, has been involved in big flashpoints in each of his last three matches. The former Kilmarnock player was publicly accused of cheating by Dougie Hill despite the Raith Rovers defender’s red card for headbutting him in last month’s League Cup tie being upheld.
In his last two games – against Inverness Caley Thistle and Celtic – highly-dubious penalties have been given against him for handball. Following the first of those, his red card was rescinded on appeal after replays showed the ball cannoned off his face.
Locke has no doubt that the recent incidents will prove to be water off a duck’s back to his committed, all-action midfielder. “It’s tough because it always seems to be Jamie,” said the manager. “He’s an experienced player, though, so he takes it on the chin and just moves on. Because of the position he plays and the way he plays, he’s always going to be involved in things. He’s got a lot of similarities to [Celtic captain] Scott Brown, in my opinion. He’s one of those players you love having in your team and most opposing players probably don’t like him. That’s just the way he is.”
Locke has been thrilled with Hamill’s form this season and feels the 27-year-old is thriving as one of the older heads in a young Hearts team.
He said: “He’s had a fantastic season so far, so hopefully he can keep up his consistent performances. I’ve known Jamie a long time and I know what he’s capable of.
“Over the last few years, we’ve been looking for him to take a bit more responsibility on the pitch and I think he’s now doing that. He’s really leading by example, which is great. He’s a winner – he hates getting beat.
“You know that with someone like Jamie in your team you’re not going to capitulate. He keeps everyone going. First and foremost, he’s a good player who uses the ball well. I’ve been delighted with his performances so far.”
Meanwhile, forward Ryan Stevenson, who has been out of action since suffering torn medial ligament in last month’s Edinburgh derby, today returned to light training.
“Ryan starts doing a bit of jogging today,” Locke said this morning. “He’s got the knee brace off now, so that’s pleasing. He’s a bit ahead of schedule, but we’ve not really set a timescale on his return. We’ll see how he gets on today and if he’s okay jogging then we’ll try and get him running, and if he’s okay running, we’ll get him sprinting and so on.
“We could definitely do with getting him back in the next month or so because we need all the experience we can get at the moment. He’s also got a goal in him as well, so he’s really valuable for us.”
Locke will be at New Victoria Park in Newtongrange tonight to watch Hearts Under-20s face Hibs (7pm kick-off). First-team fringe men Jordan McGhee and Callum Tapping are set to feature for the Jambos.
“Jordan and Callum will get a run,” said the Hearts manager. “It’s important that they keep ticking over. It’ll be pretty competitive and played at a good tempo because it’s against Hibs, but you’ll find it’ll be most of the same young boys that have been involved for the 20s recently.”