HEARTS striker Dale Carrick admits the season ahead will be a huge one for his club – but also for his career.
The youngster is one of very few attacking options available to manager Gary Locke this season and, with a transfer embargo currently placed on the club, Carrick is likely to be a regular feature in the Jambos’ starting XI.
However, the 19-year-old is keen to prove that, whatever opportunities come his way, he is in there on merit.
There will be huge pressure on the shoulders of the youthful Hearts team as they bid to not only prove they can cut it against more experienced top-flight opposition but overturn a 15-point deduction and stay in the division. Carrick insists he will take it all in his stride when called upon.
The 19-year-old, who has represented Scotland at both Under-16 and Under-21 level, said: “There’s no doubt this is a very big season for me personally – and for all of the boys in the team.
“Obviously, my main aim would be to get a regular place in the side and play as much football as I possibly can.
“There is always pressure, but it’s mainly pressure that you put upon yourself because you want to play well and help the team out.”
At the moment, Carrick has just one simple target. He is desperate to get his first goal for Hearts and firmly believes that, when that happens, more will follow.
Carrick, who has made 16 appearances for Hearts, continued: “I just want to score a goal, it’s as simple as that. Once I have got one under my belt, I want to score as many as I possibly can.
“I won’t be looking at who else is available, I will just ignore everything and try to get on with what the manager asks me to do. I want to do my bit for the team and hopefully that will be enough.”
The main hurdle for Hearts this season will be the points deduction imposed from the start of the campaign.
As a result, the administration-hit club will be among the favourites to take the drop at the conclusion of the season but Carrick says that everyone from within the club is staying positive on that front.
“It is just something that you have to deal with,” he insisted. “It has happened now and there’s nothing that we can do about it.
“We have to try to put that to the back of our minds to a certain extent, just focus on playing as well as we can and hopefully we will get enough results to get us out of the situation we find ourselves in.
“We want to stay up and we’re all positive that we can do that.
“I think we’re all looking at it as a great opportunity for ourselves. If we do manage to stay up, then it would be a real achievement for us.”
Later this week, the Hearts squad will fly to Belfast for the final leg of their pre-season preparations. The Tynecastle side take on Crusaders on Thursday night at the Oval before facing a Liverpool select on Saturday.
With two games in the space of just two days, the tournament is likely to provide Locke with an opportunity to give several players a run out or to make any tweaks to the line-up which was held to a 0-0 draw by Queen of the South last Saturday.
Having also faced Dinamo Bucharest, Dunfermline and Raith Rovers, Carrick feels he is well on the way to being in peak physical condition for when Hearts kick off their domestic season at St Johnstone on August 3.
“I have never been to Belfast,” Carrick added, “so I am looking forward to it and I think that having two games inside the space of just a couple of games will mean that everyone gets a chance to play at some point.
“We obviously want to be playing as many games as we possibly can in pre-season and hopefully this tournament will mean that we are fit and raring to go in time for the start of the new season.
“We’re at a good stage right now, but there are a few things here and there that you need to tweak, so hopefully we can do that over the course of the two games in Belfast.
“My fitness is slowly creeping up with every game that I play now. When you get to this stage you start to really feel a difference and now I am just looking to get myself to full match fitness for the start of the season.
“We’ve been training hard and we’re all looking to push on as quickly as possible so that we can get a good start to the season.”