Jorge Grant interview: 'You don't wear green at Hearts. I've learned that already'
Riccarton ethics aren’t exactly rocket science for a new Hearts signing. Give 100 per cent, beat Hibs, never wear anything green – even underwear – and you should be fine.
It’s all fairly predictable but nonetheless a vital code to follow. Jorge Grant has kept his head down, watched and learned since arriving from Peterborough United six weeks ago. He is one of five new Tynecastle recruits who will sample the Edinburgh derby for the first time this Sunday.
Nobody hands you a manual outlining the ‘dos and don’ts’ of life at a new club. Sometimes they need explained before people find out the hard way. Helped by one unfortunate colleague’s experience, Grant and others fully understand the rivalry with Hibs before travelling to Easter Road.
“Someone wore a green t-shirt out in town and some of the Hearts fans were telling him: ‘You can’t wear that. Take it off.’ Just wearing that colour is a massive thing,” says the Englishman.
“The lads have made sure all the new boys know how important this is to us and the fans. They have explained everything that’s different to me, different to England. We will be going there to win. I’ve seen a few fans on the street and after games. They’ve said: ‘Well done for the win, but next week is the most important one.’”
At 27, he has never played in what you might call a proper derby – the traditional kind where shinbone crunches shinbone while flares burn against the backdrop of a deafening din. He’ll get all that and more in Leith.
“I was on the bench for Nottingham Forest against Derby but I never played. That is a massive derby and the atmosphere was great. I haven’t played in one as big as this so it will be a career highlight for me, 100 per cent.
“I’ve played against Liverpool, Everton, Spurs and big clubs like that in cup ties, but I haven’t really played in a big derby. I’m really looking forward to the experience, it’s a big stage to play on.”
Grant is relaxed and chatty in a room overlooking the Riccarton training pitches. An apprenticeship in England’s lower leagues provided a tough grounding at clubs like Notts County, Luton Town, Mansfield, Lincoln City and Peterborough. He is entitled to feel he can cope with a bit of rough in Scotland.
He tells the Evening News of some brutal treatment down in League Two which taught him streetwise habits as a younger player. He is a technical footballer who creates and scores goals but he can also handle himself. A handy trait in any Scottish league derby.
“I started my career in League Two, which is probably more physical than our game against Ross County last week. I’m used to playing in games where it's 100 miles an hour. I’ve played nearly 250 games so far and I’m sure I can cope up here.
“I got fouled five or six times on Saturday but I know where to put my body. If someone’s coming to smash me, I can see it coming and ride the tackle because I’ve been through it before.”
Grant’s introduction as a substitute after 27 minutes helped Hearts gain control against a dangerous County side. His passing and movement in central midfield underpinned a 2-1 win to open the Premiership campaign, and he is now pushing to start against Hibs.
“I didn’t really know the standard of football when I came up,” he admits. “I had only seen some bigger games on TV but the standard is really good. The quality of our team is really high and it has been really easy to settle. A group of us all live in the same area and that has helped.
“I didn’t start last week and I know I’ve got to force my way into the team. I need to train well and play well to make sure the shirt is mine. We have quality in every position so if you are not on form then someone will take your place.
“I felt the first half against Ross County was 100 miles an hour and there wasn’t much calmness at all. It was a bit crazy. When I came on, it took me ten or 15 minutes to settle because I wasn’t ready to come on that early. I didn’t expect Natty [Atkinson] to go down.
“I felt we took control of the game in the second half and I thought I played a good part in that. You have to do all the hard work, pressing, winning second balls first in centre midfield. If you don’t, you won’t get involved in the game. Hopefully I can show my quality as the game goes on.”
If Robbie Neilson is unsure whether to include Grant in Hearts’ starting line-up, the player’s record against Lee Johnson might work in his favour. Grant played for Lincoln as they knocked Johnson’s Sunderland side out of the League One play-off semi-final in 2021.
Lincoln also drew twice at the Stadium of Light that season. Grant’s only outright defeat in five encounters with the new Hibs manager was a 4-0 reverse back in December 2020.
“I’ve played against his teams a lot and I know the style of play,” says the Hearts midfielder. “I don’t know what he has tried to implement at Hibs but I reckon it will be similar to what he did in the past. The players he brought in at Sunderland were ball-players so I would expect the same.
“I feel I can bring something to this match. Set-pieces are a big part of my game and, when I spoke to the gaffer in the summer, that’s something he felt I could bring. I’ve got over 50 career goals and 40 to 50 assists so I can effect the game, especially when I’m higher up.”