A HUMBLE community stadium beside the Springkerse Industrial Estate is the potential launchpad for Angus Beith’s professional career.
The Hearts teenager is on loan at Forthbank and currently thriving in a Stirling Albion team adrift at the bottom of League One. He is there until the end of the season while Stirling hone him for a crack at the Tynecastle first team.
Manager Stuart McLaren explains that Beith is seizing the opportunity. He initially joined Stirling at the end of November on a loan deal until early January. So impressive were his early performances in midfield that McLaren petitioned Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson and director of football Craig Levein to let him stay until May. They were happy to accommodate after Beith raved about his time in Stirlingshire.
The 19-year-old – nicknamed “Goose” – will get the chance to stake a claim for a first-team place with Hearts this summer. When the time comes, he must be ready. Forthbank sits on the industrial outskirts of Stirling and serves the local football club and community with a capacity of 3800. It is also playing vital part in Beith’s development right now.
“We were desperate to try and keep the boy. He’s a terrific character,” McLaren told the Evening News. “He appreciates that his career is not going to be at Stirling Albion long term but, for the period he’s here, it can certainly help him launch his career at a higher level. His attitude has been first-class.
“We were aware the end of the initial loan was coming up so we spoke to Hearts a couple of weeks beforehand. To be fair, they were great. They said they would think things through properly and have a chat with Angus to make sure he felt he was getting what he needed out of being here. He said he was thoroughly enjoying it so we were really happy they let us keep him till the end of the season.
“I was delighted Robbie and Craig felt it was the right thing for Angus to stay here and continue to gain more experience of senior football. I know Robbie has quite a high opinion of him.
“He had him in and around the first team during pre-season. Obviously, there are a couple of very good midfield players in that Hearts squad at the moment who are just edging him out a little bit. They feel that next pre-season, they will give him his opportunity to stake his claim in the Hearts first-team squad. He’ll be better placed for that having had 24 or 25 games for Stirling Albion by the end of the season.”
Beith’s authoritative displays in the Stirling midfield have already convinced McLaren that he can play at the highest level. Hearts intend to be back in the Premiership next season and McLaren feels Beith can succeed in that environment.
“No shadow of a doubt, Angus could play in the first team either at Hearts or any team in the Scottish Premiership. Potentially, he could even go to a higher level,” continued the 39-year-old, who has spent most of his playing and coaching career in Australia. “You’re never 100 per cent certain until you see somebody playing at a certain level how much higher they can go.
“In terms of the Scottish Premiership and the Hearts first team [next season], not a problem.”
Beith’s only senior appearance to date for his parent club was last August in the 4-1 Petrofac Training Cup defeat by Livingston. The chance to gain first-team experience at Stirling is therfore crucial, while he is also able to play for Hearts Under-20s as per the terms of his loan. Many young Scottish players are benefiting from the best of both worlds because of new development loans, designed to increase their game time and accelerate progress.
McLaren is already taken with Beith’s ability and application despite Stirling Albion sitting eight points adrift at the bottom of League One.
“Angus is doing really well. I’m really pleased with his progress and I’m sure Hearts are as well,” continued the manager. “He’s been terrific for us from the very first minute he came in. His performances have certainly played a part in why we’ve been playing better as a team. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to transfer that into results because we’re needing to get off the foot of the table.
“His big attribute for me is that he is comfortable taking the ball under pressure. I always find that with midfield players. If you’re going to play in there, it’s all very well to get on the ball and play passes when you’ve got time. Doing the same thing under pressure, and do it with quality, is different. That’s what Angus has brought to us.
“He’s a competitor by nature and he works really hard closing opponents down. He wins his share of tackles to make sure we get a stranglehold on the game. His all-round game has been really good.
“His best game has possibly been his very first game for us. It was a cup tie at home to Raith Rovers and the only difference between us and them was finishing. We made more chances but they took theirs and won 2-0. Angus was terrific. He put a lot of energy into his performance and his quality and distribution was excellent.
“We don’t have the capacity to keep exact stats on people but I’m sure his pass completion rate would’ve been in the high 80s or 90s that day. The immediate challenge facing Beith is to continue in the same vein.
“We’ll just look for him to keep the consistency in his performances. We’ve paired Craig Comrie up with Angus in midfield because the two of them complement each other well. Craig is right-sided and Angus is left-sided but they’re two very similar players. Both are comfortable taking the ball under pressure and you couldn’t fault either of them for their work-rate.”