In Hearts, Tony Watt appears to have found the ideal club with which to settle off the pitch and excel on it.
After a nomadic existence south of the border and abroad since leaving Celtic, in Connor Sammon he’s found a strike partner who knows what that’s like.
Watt is at Tynecastle on a season-long loan from Charlton – the fourth of his still relatively young career, having temporarily joined Standard Liege in Belgium, Cardiff and Blackburn Rovers respectively.
After joining Derby County, Sammon spent three of his four seasons as a Rams player out on loan. Therefore, the Dubliner knows only too well the effect such upheaval can have on a career, and believes his current club has everything in place to allow he and Watt to thrive.
“Absolutely”, replied Sammon when asked if he was surprised that Hearts had managed to land Watt. “Personally, when you get to know Tony, I think he was probably homesick down in England.
“When you have a few loan spells it’s very unsettling. You don’t really have a home or a place where you feel settled and that’s so important. I’ve found that out over the last few years and Tony’s obviously so much younger which makes it so much more difficult to feel that settled way.
“I think it was a huge plus for him being able to come back up to Scotland where he’s closer to his family, closer to home and what a great place for him to get that opportunity here at Hearts. I can’t speak highly enough of the club, the facilities, the people, the staff...it’s a great place to be.”
Contentment off the pitch is contributing to a fruitful partnership on it. Both have one league goal apiece, but their dovetailing of styles has made Hearts a more dangerous attacking proposition in general, scoring ten in three successive victories ahead of today’s trip to Perth. Sammon believes there’s more to come. “I think over time it will tell, but the early signs are very, very good,” he said. “We’re a good fit with each other. Tony likes to drop in between midfield and up front and that suits me down to the ground because I want to play on the last man. I want to be running in behind and I want to be chasing through balls. He’s got the ability as well to pick up the ball, get turned, beat a few men and play a through ball.
“David McGoldrick at Ipswich Town was a similar sort of player. I didn’t play as many times with him but he’d probably be a stand out. Even [Alexei] Eremenko in my time at Kilmarnock, although he wasn’t a striker or a front man, the similarities are there where he had so much skill and ability and he could play a through ball as well.
“I think Tony’s got an awful lot going in his game. He shows pace and power as well, he’s not just the kind of player who needs everything to his feet so he’s a real talent.
“It was brilliant that he got his opportunity to link up with the national team and I think that will only motivate him even more to do well in a Hearts jersey this season and make sure he stays in those sort of squads.
“The signs are there and I think the longer and the more opportunities we get to play with each other on the training ground, it can only grow. It’s very exciting to be a part of that partnership.”
It’s an exciting time to be a Hearts player full stop at the moment. A win at McDiarmid Park today would put the Jambos top of the pile overnight at least. With Sammon playing regularly in front of a happy family, it’s as energised as the 29-year-old has for been match days in years.
“I would probably say the early stages of my time at Derby,” he recalled of the last time felt this way. “You are new to the club, the stadium is incredible and the fans are great. But now, even off the pitch, I feel really, really settled. My wife is from Scotland so it is more settling for her. It’s the whole package.
“Driving into Tynecastle with my family with me, it’s just very special and the older you get the more you realise that you can’t take these moments for granted because I have been on the flip-side, going to games knowing that I am probably not going to play and I’m probably just going to come on for the last 10-15 minutes which can be really frustrating.
“All that frustration gets built up and you can channel it in a positive way and I’m lucky to be getting a great opportunity here at Hearts to go out and express myself on a Saturday and to go and enjoy my football.”
He’ll no doubt enjoy it even more if Hearts are league leaders by 5pm this evening. “One hundred per cent, it’s an incentive,” said the striker. “We knew that going into the game on Saturday that there was an opportunity for us with the Old Firm playing before us and we knew that one of the teams was going to drop points. That left an opportunity for us to move up the league table.
“We are second just now which is a really good start to the season and it’s a great opportunity to go and lay down another marker by going one step better and moving into the top position. We know it will be difficult going up to St Johnstone, having played them in the League Cup not so long ago and getting beat by them. That’s a great motivation for us to go there, try to reverse that result and get the three points to really keep this run of form going and maintain that winning mentality.”