Aidan White has assured Hearts supporters he still has plenty more gears to go through before he is operating at his best.
The 27-year-old left-back, who joined the Tynecastle club in March, came through his first competitive match in more than two and a half years on Saturday as he marked his return from a career-halting injury lay-off by playing the full 90 minutes of the goalless draw with Ross County.
White, who saw the visitors miss a late penalty which he conceded, was “relieved and proud” to complete the game unscathed, but he admits he is still rusty and will need a run of matches to rediscover his sharpness.
“I don’t feel it was a great performance from me on Saturday,” White told the Evening News. “Obviously I ticked a box and it was good to be back out there but I’ve got a lot more in my locker. The more games I play, the better I’ll become.
“When you step out on the pitch, you need to be at the right level. Fans expect that, and rightly so. I’ll always give 100 per cent but I also need time to get to the level I want. I feel I can be an asset to this club but I just need a bit of time to get there. I’m not quite where I need to be and where I want to be but that’s only going to come with games.”
White broke through as a promising teenager at Leeds United just more than a decade ago before having his career halted by an issue with his groin and hip when playing with Barnsley, shortly after his 24th birthday. Now 27 and finally injury-free, he is adamant his best years as a footballer are ahead of him and that Hearts and boss Craig Levein, inset, can benefit from them.
“I definitely feel I can still be the same player I was earlier in my career,” he said. “I actually don’t feel like I’ve ever reached a level where I feel I’m at my best - I still feel like that’s yet to come. People have told me that because I’ve had a few years out, sometimes you can add it on to the end of your career so hopefully I’ll manage to go for a bit longer. I don’t think I’ve reached the point where I’m at my best - that’s still to come.”