'I always believe in my own ability': Jamie Walker was on his way out of Hearts, but winning goal could be a turning point

Jamie Walker has a big decision to make over the next couple of weeks, and it’s just become more complicated.

Sunday, 19th December 2021, 10:30 pm
Jamie Walker celebrates in front of the Hearts fans after his match-winning goal. He wants to stay at Hearts, but only is he gets more opportunites
Jamie Walker celebrates in front of the Hearts fans after his match-winning goal. He wants to stay at Hearts, but only is he gets more opportunites

By coming off the bench to score the winner against Dundee, Walker didn’t only remind head coach Robbie Neilson what he is capable of. He gave himself a lift himself too.

The 28-year-old had a handful of games in the Premier Sports Cup in July, but has barely featured in the league since Barrie McKay and Ben Woodburn were added to the squad at the end of August.

He got 15 minutes against Aberdeen on August 22 and 25 minutes against Ross County on September 18. Until Saturday, that has been it. He has been an unused sub numerous times and has sometimes been left out of the match-day squad altogether.

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Jamie Walker celebrates his goal

Walker is out of contract in the summer and attracting interest ahead of the January transfer window, but insists he wants to stay.

So coming on against Dundee on Saturday to change the game by scoring the winning goal in front of the Hearts fans was a big moment. It was also an emotional moment for the dyed-in-the-wool Jambo.

“I enjoyed that,” he reflected. “It’s always nice to come off the bench and play your part. It’s been a long time since I had some minutes on the pitch but I was delighted to get the three points for the team.

Jamie Walker can't contain his joy and emotion after scoring what proved to be the winner the winner

“The reaction from the fans was fantastic. Everyone knows I’m a Hearts supporter so to send them away happy is always nice.

“It’s massive. It’s not just coming off the bench and maybe scoring the second or third in a comfortable win. It was to get the win so that was huge.”

Walker has not had reserve team games to maintain match sharpness, but Neilson recently stressed that he has to “earn a new deal”, suggesting that the player has perhaps not been doing enough in training.

Walker is a big favourite among the Hearts fans and insists he has been working hard.

On a rare appearance from the bench for Hearts, Jamie Walker fires into the roof of the net from a tight angle after the ball rebounded off the post from a deflected Aaron McEneff strike. It proved to be the winner

He explained: “I’ve not had reserve matches or anything like that. I’ve been doing a lot of running and training. I felt better than I thought I would when I came on as I hadn’t played in a long time.

“I’ll keep working away in the gym and on the training pitch and when I get opportunities I have to hope I can take them.

“When you’re not playing it’s your job to make sure you keep your fitness up. You have to stay professional and look after yourself so that when opportunities do come up you’re ready.”

Walker says he has never doubted that he can contribute to the team. “I said the same last year when I came off the bench and scored that I always believe in my own ability,” he added. “When I get in front of goal, I always feel confident that I’m going to score.”

It was just what Hearts needed on Saturday. A turning point not just for the game but potentially for Walker’s future.

This time last week it looked like he was certainly on his way out, with interest from Livingston and St Johnstone and no suggestion that a new deal is on the table. Now, there might well be second thoughts all round.

“It’s up in the summer, so it’s up to me to keep my head down, keep working, try to get opportunities and score goals,” added Walker.

His match-winning contribution at Dens Park may well persuade Neilson that he deserves more opportunities, but Walker will want some guarantees.

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