Aidy White reveals why he is loving a 'reintroduction to football' at Hearts
Full-back almost starting from scratch but feels confidence building
Nine games for Hearts so far have left Aidy White enthralled by what he calls a “reintroduction to football”. He should reach double figures tomorrow at Kilmarnock. It is the most activity he has managed in three years after relentless injury problems, yet he feels the peak is yet to come.
White spoke to the Evening News about being still ten or 20 per cent short of his best. Fitness, confidence and awareness are growing and, at 28, the full-back once again feels like a proper footballer.
He spent two and a half years out of the game between January 2017 and August this year due to persistent groin and hip issues. Four operations and many dark moments wondering if he would ever play professionally are now consigned to history as he rebuilds his career at Tynecastle Park.
Admirably, White is not merely content to be running around on grass once again. He is determined to recapture the optimum form which made him one of the English Championship’s most effective left-backs at previous club Barnsley.
“I’d probably say I’m about 80 or 90 per cent of what I was before,” he explained. “I’ve still got another ten or 20 per cent to go, just in terms of fitness, confidence, footballing ability – all the stuff which takes time to come back. Not many players have probably been in the situation I’ve been in, been out for that period of time. It’s just going to take a little while to adjust again.
“I’ve been out so long and this is kind of like a reintroduction to football again in a strange sense, so I’ve enjoyed it. I’m still finding my feet. It’s still going to take a little while for me to get back to the player that I want to be and the player I used to be.
“I’ve still got a little while to get there but the only way I’m going to get there is games. It’s just going to be a little period of acclimatisation and hopefully after each game I will feel stronger.
“I’ve had a few games now and I’m feeling alright. My body is still in adaptation phase so I’ve still got to monitor my load. I’m still picking up little niggles here and there. I’ve played with a little niggle for the last couple of games. That’s why I came off so early against St Mirren the other week. It wasn’t anything in terms of any previous injuries. It’s just expected and I’m going to get them for a little while. It’s just my body acclimatising to playing again because I haven’t played this much for a few years. I’m getting stronger and better.”
He is even adapting to different positions with little concern. White was asked by Hearts’ interim manager Austin MacPhee to play as a left winger in the aforementioned 5-2 victory against St Mirren.
“I played there as a youth player and then switched to left-back,” he said. “I’ve switched between left-back and wide left many times. I haven’t played on the wing in a few years, but then again I haven’t played football in a few years!
“I’m comfortable playing there and I enjoy it. You are a bit further up the pitch with a bit more freedom. If I’m asked to play there again, I’ll look forward to it.”
The international break has allowed White useful recuperation time. “It came at the perfect moment, to be honest. It allowed my body to settle so now I can look forward to the Kilmarnock game.”
When you have been forced to consider being forced to retire, every small step is a milestone. “There were many, many times when I considered that it probably wasn’t going to be. I had to seriously sit down and think about whether I was going to be able to do it. Fortunately, I just had the mindset of: ‘Don’t give up. However long it’s going to take, just just stick with it and you’ll get there.’ Now it’s a case of building up confidence.”
The same could be said for Hearts. Beating St Mirren was their first home league win since March and now they test their mettle on the road. White wants the victory to become a turning point.
“I’d hope so, yeah. We still have a bit to go and there are things we can definitely improve on as a team. Hopefully the St Mirren game has given us that little spark and bit of belief that we can do this.
“We want to go out on the front foot again at the weekend, get another win and push up the league. Getting on the front foot early definitely made a difference against St Mirren. We want to do that again, get high up the pitch and put Kilmarnock under pressure.”
Hearts are still dealing with strain of their own as they pursue back-to-back league wins for the first time since February. “As players, we have to take it on the chin. It’s our responsibility and we should be further up the league but our performances have not been good enough,” said White.
“There is still a bit of pressure but I think the win last weekend took a bit of the edge off it. You have to play under pressure as a footballer. No matter where you are in the league, there is pressure in all games.”