Jamie Walker believes Hearts can reach a higher level of performance as they resume Ladbrokes Premiership business against Dundee.
A 3-1 win at Fir Park before the international break featured some excellent goals, but Walker feels the Edinburgh side still have another gear to find. They sit third in the Premiership ahead of this afternoon’s visit of the Taysiders, who are managed by the former Hearts midfielder Paul Hartley. Dundee are third bottom and arrive under a degree of pressure following criticism of Hartley, and recent results.
They haven’t won in seven matches and Hearts are firm favourites to take the points. Walker is confident there is much more to come from his team as they try to build up momentum again.
“We’ve done reasonably well so far. We’re sitting third and playing quite well, but I think if we really click we could be a right good side,” he insisted. The 5-1 home win over Inverness in August is regarded as the benchmark.
“I was suspended for the Inverness game and watched it from the stand,” continued Walker. “You see how well the boys played. We’re trying to get to the highest level possible every week. You obviously can’t play well every week but you need to try and get your performance as high as possible.”
The winger is also critical in his own self-assessment and is eager to score more often.
He has managed a creditable four goals in seven domestic appearances to date but, perhaps typically, isn’t satisfied with his finishing prowess.
A two-match ban for diving forced him to miss games against Aberdeen and Inverness, and he then had to show patience before reclaiming a starting place in Robbie Neilson’s team.
With that achieved, Walker is now determined to contribute more goals over the coming weeks and months.
“I’ve done reasonably well since I came back from my suspension. I’ve missed a few chances and could’ve scored a few goals. That’s obviously part of football. If you keep getting into the right areas, the goals will come. We had a few hard days training last week and everyone is delighted to be back now and preparing to face Dundee. The boys are back from international duty and we’re looking to continue after our good victory at Fir Park.”
Callum Paterson, Jack Hamilton, Arnaud Djoum, Perry Kitchen and Faycal Rherras were all absent from Riccarton during the international break as they jetted off with their respective countries.
Rherras is doubtful for today’s match having taken ill whilst training with the Morocco squad.
Walker watched Paterson play in Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers against Lithuania and Slovakia. Although a 1-1 draw and 3-0 defeat were disappointing for the national team’s hopes of reaching Russia 2018, Paterson’s performances offered some encouragement.
“It’s a credit to Callum how far he’s come over the last couple of years,” said Walker. “I think, over the two games, he did reasonably well. Everyone is delighted for him and hopefully more players can make that step up to international level.
“As a player, you want to play at the highest level. To play for Scotland would be fantastic. Everyone is just concentrating on playing well here. You never know where it might take you.”
Now 23, Walker doesn’t hide his own ambitions to catch Gordon Strachan’s eye and force his way into the senior squad. Much depends on his performances, consistency and goals tally over the coming weeks and months. He isn’t aware of any genuine interest from Hampden at the moment, though.
“Not really. I scored a lot of goals when I came back from injury last season so I thought I would maybe have a chance then, but it never came. I need to keep working hard and just see where it takes me,” he said.