Jamie Walker open to new Hearts contract despite January move away from Tynecastle
Jamie Walker has revealed he would be happy to discuss a new contract with Hearts after admitting Tynecastle still feels like home.
The 28-year-old boyhood fan is out of contract in the summer and is currently out on loan at League Two outfit Bradford City after opting to make the switch down south to find regular first-team opportunities.
He played in eight successive games for the League Two club, including scoring his first goal in a 1-0 win at Stevenage, before suffering a hamstring injury last month.
This was in sharp contrast to the first part of the campaign in Gorgie. Walker went three months without playing at one point before coming off the bench to score the winner against Dundee.
Manager Robbie Neilson made it known he wanted to keep Walker but couldn’t guarantee a regular spot in the side. But even though he’s set to become a free agent and can currently agree a pre-contract with another club, the attacking midfielder won’t rule out a new deal.
“I’m still under contract with Hearts at the moment but my contract is up at the end of the season. Over my two spells, I’ve played a lot of games, scored a lot of goals and been there a long time so I’d never say never,” he said.
"If Hearts wanted to offer me a new one-year deal then it’s something I’d be happy to talk with them about but at the moment I’m trying to play my best here at Bradford and put myself in the shop window as you never know where you will end up next.
“My family and kids are back in Edinburgh and sometimes it’s things like this that fans don’t realise. If I was to move then my kids need to move school, I need to move house. Hearts and Edinburgh are my home and if they’d like to talk about a new contract then I would be happy to do that. But at the moment, I’m just concentrating on playing football and enjoying it and hopefully come the summer I’ve got a few options.”
“It was tough to leave Hearts as that’s the club I’ve grown up supporting. I think Robbie [Neilson] made it publicly clear that the decision was down to me. I’m getting a bit older now and I just want to play football. We came to a decision that I was going to move on loan.
"I didn’t play at all during the early part of the season but as the January window approached, I scored against Dundee and played against Ross County and that did make the decision harder. I’m just delighted to be back playing football.”
Walker was a key member of the Hearts side who won promotion back to the Scottish Premiership at the first time of asking after Neilson’s return as manager in the summer of 2020, but he found himself largely sitting on the sidelines since moving back up a division.
Though he readily admits frustration with the lack of opportunities, especially in an area where few Hearts players have stood out consistently, he insists there are no bad feelings between himself and Neilson.
“The team started the season well and I found my game time very limited but I think I deserved a lot more opportunities than I got,” Walker said. “Even in the Championship last season, every time I came on to the pitch I contributed with a goal or an assist. It’s a question you would have to ask the gaffer. I respect his decision and we came to a decision that I was going to move.
“I feel like across the starting 11, it was the wider areas and the number tens who were more inconsistent. People got a lot of opportunities which I didn’t and when I did get mine, I took them. That contributed to my decision to move away and try to play some football. Hearts is my club and I’ve scored a lot of goals there and played a lot of games. Me and my family support the club so it wasn’t easy but I want to play regular football.
“I’ve got a great relationship with Robbie and over the course of my two spells at Hearts career it’s the best I’ve played. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and I think he likes me as a player. I’ve done well for him before and he wished me well when I left in January.”
It’s Walker’s second spell in English football after joining Wigan Athletic from Hearts in the 2018 window. He didn’t play much for the Latics, just eight appearances and a loan spell at Peterborough United, before returning to Edinburgh.
Fellow Premiership clubs St Johnstone and Livingston were interested in taking Walker on loan this January, but the winger admits playing for Bradford has a lot of similarities to Hearts.
“It was the size of the club that attracted me to Bradford,” he said. “If it was a smaller club in League Two then I would’ve probably accepted an offer closer to home that was on the table. I knew Bradford were a big club but I didn’t actually realise how big they’re.
"They are similar to Hearts in terms of big clubs, big fanbase and big expectations. I wanted to have another crack at playing in England as I didn’t play as much the first time around.”