Josh Ginnelly speaks on his Hearts contract situation and reveals the team's best moment after beating Hibs
Emotional highs can be rare in football but there is no question Hearts are surfing a wave of euphoria right now. Search online for footage of Sunday’s full-time scenes at Easter Road and you can witness the raw exultation.
The feelgood factor, as it is so often branded, is ubiquitous at both Tynecastle Park and the Riccarton training base which is the players’ daily home. Beating Hibs 3-0 took them into the Scottish Cup fifth round, illustrated their Edinburgh derby dominance by extending their unbeaten run in the fixture to nine games, and also took them nine unbeaten in all competitions since November. It is difficult to argue at the moment that Gorgie does, indeed, rule.
Josh Ginnelly is a prime example of Hearts’ positivity. Earlier this season the club were willing to listen to offers for the Englishman, now they are about to open contract talks to keep him. He is waiting for discussions to begin formally but won’t allow the situation to become a distraction. “There’s been nothing so far. I will just play my football. I’m not looking anywhere to be honest, I’m just focused on the next game,” he told the Evening News.
His recent conversion from winger to centre-forward was demonstrated by his lethal finish following Robert Snodgrass’ free-kick less than ten minutes into Sunday’s derby. Ginnelly didn’t hesitate to execute a pre-match plan when the chance arose, then came subsequent strikes by Lawrence Shankland and Toby Sibbick.
“For my goal, we worked on my it in midweek,” he revealed. “Snoddy’s delivery is right on the button nine times out of ten. When he is whipping the ball into those areas, I just find my position where I think the ball is going to drop. Thankfully, it did drop. It’s always a good feeling to get a goal but that was a special one. I wish it was at the other end but it was an important goal.
“Moments like that, you remember them. I probably enjoyed Toby’s goal more than anything else. I just think it showed the quality he brings to the team and I think people forget his age. He’s 23 and he’s playing like he’s played 1000 games. He’s just a rock at the back and I think all the fans should appreciate him. He is massive for us, one of our main players. The goal will keep him in good spirits.”
As will the rapturous reception from 3,800 travelling fans at full-time in Leith. It was an experience for anyone with a Hearts connection to savour following an exhilarating victory which was manager Robbie Neilson’s first ever at Easter Road. Ginnelly knew the significance of the achievement and revelled in the celebrations alongside his team-mates.
“That’s probably the best moment we’ve had as a team. The scenes after the game, the fans and stuff, it was incredible,” he said. “We were determined to enjoy it but we need to stay focused. We are back into training now and Sunday is done. There have been a few games where we haven’t been great but we’ve got the result. That’s what a big team is about. You don’t always have to play great to win a game so we were buzzing with how Sunday went. Most lads have played in derbies but when you win and the fans stay on at the end, the boys will remember that. It will kick us on another gear.”
Ginnelly’s turnaround in fortunes is largely attributable to that on-field positional change. A winger since childhood, he is currently thriving at centre-forward in a burgeoning partnership with Hearts captain Lawrence Shankland. Both men are playing arguably the best football of their careers so far. Between them, they have scored 13 goals in the last ten games for the Edinburgh club.
“Me and Shanks are always speaking and playing to each others strengths,” said Ginnelly. “We are managing that at the minute but we can’t really get too ahead of ourselves. You have to look at the quality Shanks brings. That goal on Sunday is what he can do. Sometimes he isn’t involved in the game too much, then he comes up with a goal like that. It’s not a simple finish and it just speaks volumes for what he brings to the team.”
Does this now mean Ginnelly is more of a striker than anything else? It seems old habits die hard. “I’m still a winger at heart but I’m doing a job for the team. It’s something I have to do and I enjoy doing it. The ball isn’t always going to be at my feet so it’s more of a team role and I’m happy to do that.”
Hearts travel to Livingston on Sunday as Premiership duties resume. Compared to the raucous scenes at Easter Road, this one will be a notably different encounter on an astroturf pitch. “Professionalism, that hits the nail on the head. It's a change from a derby,” said Ginnelly. “I think any team will admit that going to Livingston is really tough. If you want to pass the ball on the ground, it’s tough to do that. The pitch is bobbly but, at the same time, they have to play on it too. There aren’t really any excuses. We have to go there and hopefully get a result but Livingston are a good team who make it hard for you. We will come up with a gameplan to suit.”