Jamie Walker has urged Hearts fans to “stick with us” as the Jambos look to overcome Birkirkara in their Europa League second qualifying round second leg at Tynecastle.
A clash with Russian outfit FC Krasnodar awaits Hearts should they dispose of their Maltese opponents. However, Walker is eager to stress that the prospect of a big European tie – the likes of which Gorgie fans haven’t witnessed since they took on Liverpool in 2012 – should not detract from the task at hand.
Birkirkara managed to nullify Hearts’ attacking threat in last week’s 0-0 draw in Malta and Walker admits they have the potential to frustrate the Tynecastle faithful tonight.
“They will sit in,” said Walker. “We will have to move the ball side to side and the fans will have to stick with us.
“This is something different from playing in the league games and we’ve got a great tie to look forward to if we get through.
“But Birkirkara were well organised, everyone knew what they were doing and they had experienced boys so it will be a tough game.”
For Walker, Hearts’ European journey has personal significance. He hopes that racking up four assists in the 4-2 win away to Infonet in the last round is indicative of hard work paying off after an injury-hit season last time round.
“It was frustrating getting injured but it’s just part of the game,” he commented. “I’m 23 years old, I want to be playing every week and European games are massive so hopefully I can keep doing well.
“I still sometimes get a wee bit of pain every now and again maybe after games but I’m working on it every day to keep it away.”
Walker is also conscious of locating Hearts’ achievements within the wider context of the Scottish game attempting to recapture some success in Europe following a dismal spell.
“Of course, it can be embarrassing if we keep getting put out at the first and second round,” he remarked. “We look at ourselves first but as a player you want Aberdeen and Celtic and Hibs to progress as well.
“The better we do, the easier it becomes in the future with the coefficient so hopefully we can get through as many teams as possible.”