Hearts starlet Harry Stone on Albion Rovers loan spell, incredible saves, Craig Gordon and 'battering' the gym
It was just after the interval in the League Two clash between Albion Rovers and Edinburgh City, Cliftonhill shrouded in darkness with the exception of the pitch.
A corner bounced, bobbled and bumped around the box before it fell to City striker Ouzy See. The connection was as clean as you like, even Pixellot couldn’t miss it.
Only, no one expected what followed. Hearts goalkeeper Harry Stone, on loan at Albion Rovers, reacted at a pace normally reserved for superheroes in a Marvel blockbuster, flinging himself to his right, pushing the ball over the bar at point-blank range.
The reaction of the visiting players said it all. Seven of them stood, hands on head. Disbelief.
City's Twitter account described it as “one of the best saves you’ll see all season”. That can’t be argued.
Only, Stone, who turns 19 on Tuesday, has made stops against Queen’s Park and Stirling Albion which rival the heroics of that save.
There are similarities to them all. Insane reflexes, jaw-dropping ability to move across the line quickly, opposition players with their hands on head. Disbelief.
‘Can’t beat that’
"The saves with the players and their hands on their head, Craig Gordon messaged me after that saying it is one of the best sights in football for a goalkeeper,” Stone told the Evening News.
"One of the great things, pulling off a save like that and everyone around you is like ‘how’s he done that?’. Can’t beat it.”
It is exactly what Stone wanted when he joined Albion Rovers in March.
He had a one-game emergency loan at Stirling Albion at the start of the season, plus a spell with Spartans, but when the opportunity arose, regular first-team football where he would be kept busy was the perfect fit.
Highly-thought of at Hearts, development and progression comes with games and he has had plenty of them, eight in 26 days.
The Wee Rovers have not just been good for him but he has been perfect for them.
They were ninth place and two points off bottom when he arrived, they are now seventh, ten points clear of the dreaded relegation play-off spot and enamoured with their goalkeeper.
Hectic but enjoyable
“I’m just happy I’m going out playing games and it is going well,” Stone said.
“I’ve never experienced such a number of games in such a short period of time, it’s all new to me. Hectic but I wouldn’t say stressful. I’m just enjoying it.
"Game scenarios are completely different to training. You work on the basics at training but the things that can happen in a game you can’t necessarily prepare for and it’s good to go and learn those and experience those so that when I’m older and trying to break through at Hearts I’ve got that knowledge of what to do.
“When I joined Albion Rovers we were second bottom of the league so I knew it was a situation where I would be facing more shots than if I was [in a team] comfortably winning every game. Which is what I wanted. I wanted to go somewhere I would be tested.
"That has been the most fun thing, going in, making saves and showing people what I can do.”
It's not just his eye-catching saves which have endeared him to his new team-mates, manager Brian Reid and the club’s fans, but his confidence with cross balls, while he develops the vocal side of his game.
Love of cross balls
“It’s always been one of my attributes coming for cross balls," Stone said. “Using my height. It’s usually just the six [yard box] that a goalie would come and take cross balls.
"If they are hanging up, which is a lot of what League Two football is, a lot of crosses, balls down the line and balls in the box, I love coming and taking the crosses.
“I know some of my players were saying to me they feel so relaxed when the ball gets put in the box they know if they hear my shout they’re fine and can get set.
"If I’m able to be confident and come and help the team at the back it translates all the way through the team and we play better together.”
He added: “I was never really loud, the classic goalkeeper shouting at all his defenders. That’s never really been me. But that’s something I am developing playing all these games and working on that.”
Gym, studying and nutrition
Stone, it is clear, is very level-headed and dedicated to his craft. The type of personality who wants to make the utmost of the natural talent he has been given and subsequently developed.
Last season, the player juggled training with learning, studying advanced higher chemistry and biology at Balerno High School. Despite exams being cancelled he landed two As.
During the pandemic he bought a home gym, “battering” it over lockdown and he has weekly meetings with the club nutritionist to ensure he is preparing correctly for matches, which involves hydration, sleep and a coffee.
Then there is the constant dialogue with goalkeeper coach Paul Gallacher and learning by osmosis through the ideal role model, Craig Gordon.
"Paul Gallacher’s already came and watched a few games and we’ll talk about them in training the day after and we’ll run through all the situations, anything I did well and anything I could have done better and Craig Gordon texts me after most games asking how did I do, did you play well, what could I have done better.
“I’m able to watch how he trains and how he plays, day in and day out.
"I’ve never seen anything like him before. In training he’s always at it and he pulls off these unbelievable saves in training every day, conceding a goal he takes it personally.
"Seeing that attitude, it helps a lot.”
Judging by his performances for Albion Rovers it certainly has helped and suggests the future of goalkeeping at Heart of Midlothian Football Club is in safe hands.