FOLLOWING manager Gary Locke’s call for his players to rest more, Hearts forward Callum Paterson today insisted he feels fresh and ready for the challenges of the winter months.
Both Locke and former striker John Robertson have voiced concerns in recent days about burnout affecting the club’s young players due to the demands of constant first-team football. Paterson is adamant he has no physical problems.
The 19-year-old is high on confidence after two goals in his last two matches – against Aberdeen two weeks ago and then for Scotland Under-21s against Georgia last week. He is almost an automatic choice at club level and is thriving on the responsibility of trying to help Hearts avoid relegation from the Scottish Premiership.
“Of course I feel fresh enough. I’m young and I’ve not got any excuses to feel not fresh. I feel great,” said the player. “I played quite a bit last season, so I’m kind of used to getting a lot of games in a row. So I’m all right with it. Everyone’s buzzing about playing first-team football. Our last result up at Aberdeen was great. It would have been better to have a game the next weekend, but we had a break and now we’ve got to keep our confidence going into the Ross County game today.
“All the boys are used to playing football. We’ve done it with the under-19s, under-17s, all our lives really. There’s not much depth to choose from, so we’ve not really got a choice to get a rest. Everyone’s just playing through it and enjoying it. I want to keep playing.”
Paterson is still on an emotional high from his spectacular overhead equaliser for Scotland-Under-21s against Georgia at St Mirren Park. “To get a goal at any level is great, but especially at international level, and to do it the way I did has given me a lot of confidence,” he continued. “Scotland have had a couple of defeats. It’s not been very great recently, but that’s probably us turned a corner now. We’ve got a few games to come and hopefully the results can improve.”
When Paterson does relax, it inevitably involves football in some form. “I just sit about the house, really. Just try and do nothing – totally switch off and get the rest I need. Football’s always on the brain, so I’m either playing FIFA or watching football, one of the two.
“I play too much FIFA. All the boys are into it – we play tournaments. I win them, of course. All the time. Not lost a game. I play Borussia Dortmund. Big Brad McKay is one of my main rivals. He’s good. You can play people all over the world. Or we can all join in playing the one game, so there can be eight of us in the one tournament. Stevie May and Clark Robertson are alright too.”
Paterson scored Hearts’ goal last time they faced Ross County in Dingwall – a match no-one at the Edinburgh club has forgotten due to their late collapse resulting in a 2-1 defeat. The Highlanders visit Tynecastle today for the first time this season. “We played well for the first 89 minutes up there, then lost it in the last couple of minutes and they scored two goals at the end. It really hurts.
“The first 89 minutes I thought we played really well, played good football, then lapses in concentration lost us a couple of goals. It had a big effect on us – such a young team losing a couple of goals in the last minutes was sore. But it didn’t really take us that long [to get over it]. We focus on the next game, not on the past.”
Having beaten Aberdeen unexpectedly in their last outing, Hearts are now looking to continue the momentum this afternoon in another critical fixture in their fight for Premiership survival. “The fans have been great throughout the season. To get another win would just encourage us even more,” said Paterson. “It would put the boys in good spirits and keep us going for the next games.”