Despite dominating Scott Brown, helping end Celtic’s unbeaten run, and generally being one of the brightest prospects in Scottish football, 16-year-old Hearts midfielder Harry Cochrane couldn’t possibly develop an ego.
When your dad sends you to bed at 9.30pm each night, there is little option but to stay grounded.
Ross and Sarah Cochrane will be the proudest parents in the land right now following their son’s first-team breakthrough at Tynecastle. That doesn’t stop them sticking to house rules, though. Like many other kids his age, young Harry is told to get to kip early and generally fights to stay up later. Other teens are being ordered to their room for school the following day, but Cochrane is training with a squad of international footballers and must make the most of rest time.
His strike in Hearts’ 4-0 destruction of Celtic last month has earned him a Goal of the Month award just ten games into his senior career. However, he is still very much learning what is required at the top level. Signs are he has the potential to prosper into a mainstay with the backing of a supportive family network. Following dad’s advice would certainly help, despite any natural urge to rebel.
“My mum and dad keep me grounded. My dad is on at me every night to get to my bed early,” smiled Cochrane. “He’s on my case from about half past nine, telling me to get up the stairs because I need to rest for training the next day. I asked him for the ipad charger the other night but he kicked me out.
“I’m enjoying it but I need to keep my feet on the ground and not get carried away. I don’t really read that much and on social media I just ignore people I don’t know. If I get messages from someone I know then I’ll read it, but if it’s not then I don’t open them. My gran, Rhona, doesn’t know anything about football but she’s now mad about it and is texting me all the time.”
Should Cochrane require any extra influence, he need only glance across the Riccarton dressing-room. “Aaron Hughes has been brilliant for me, I watch him every day and look up to him. He’s a top professional who has had a brilliant career, he’s been superb with all the kids since he came to the club. He is one of the nicest people you could ever meet and from watching him that’s something I have learned – be nice to people.
“I want to be more like him, be nice to everyone and help people as much as you can. He works so hard, he’s played so many games for Northern Ireland and in the English Premier League. That’s where we all want to be. Aaron is a great guy and I just watch him and see what he does.”
Does Hughes go to his bed at half past nine? “I don’t know actually, I’ve never asked him that,” laughed Cochrane. The young midfielder has had far more important things on his mind during the last few months. It is a lot to take in when household British football names like Harry Redknapp are praising you in the media.
“It was good to get compliments from big names like Harry Redknapp but I have to make sure there is more of that. It’s down to me. I was amazed he knew who I was,” said the teenager. “At the start of the season, I just wanted to make my debut for Hearts. I was just thinking I’d have done well if I’d got a game. So to be in the first-team squad and to have played the number of games I have is amazing.
“I need to work hard to keep my place. When the gaffer brought me in he didn’t really say much, he just treated me like everyone else. It has been a brilliant few weeks for me, there’s not really more you can ask for than playing and scoring against one of the biggest teams in the country. I got Goal of the Month for it as well, which is great – it was a proud moment. Christophe Berra was telling me to shoot so I did and thankfully it went in. That was a great experience. Brendan Rodgers congratulated me after the game which was nice of him to do.”
The saying that pride comes before a fall is never more valid than in football, something young Cochrane was about to discover. A red card against St Johnstone a week after that Celtic victory was the proverbial comedown for a player surfing the clouds of euphoria.
“I had been told that in football you sometimes get more lows than highs. Liam Fox [Hearts coach] was telling me that but I was wondering what could possibly bring me down. Then a few days later I got sent off so knew exactly what he meant. Within a week I went from having a massive high to such a low, but I have to learn from it.”
He explained the fear whilst waiting in the McDiarimid Park dressing-room expecting the wrath of manager Craig Levein. The sending-off ruled him out of the Edinburgh derby against Hibs. It was the worst double whammy.
“I was walking off thinking the whole world was against me because I’d had a red card and I knew straight away I’d miss the derby,” said Cochrane. “I expected to get absolutely roared at in the changing-room, I don’t know how long I was in there for but it seemed like hours. I just sat there with my head in my hands.
“It was scary because I was expecting the manager to have a right go at me, but he was okay about it. He was really good. He told me it was a bit of inexperience to do that when I was on a yellow and to not let it happen again. The next day Foxy told me the top pros in the world get sent off, it happens in football so not to get too down about it. It’s all part of your development as a player and the big thing is learning from it.
“Sitting out the last derby was horrible and I don’t want that to ever happen again. I was sitting beside Ally Roy, who is on loan with Dumbarton, and one of his team-mates there sent him a picture of us sitting in the stand. That’s not where you want to be during a big game because you’ve picked up a red card, so it’s a lesson learned.”