Hearts’ Jamie Brandon bravely fighting adversity but admits ‘stupid’ mistake
Jamie Brandon is probably tired mustering so much resilience. Released by Rangers, denied a game for Hearts because of a teamsheet error at Peterhead, out injured for 14 months and then sent off on his return to the starting line-up. A fair amount to cope with for a player aged only 21.
It is commendable that young Brandon continues to fight back time and time again. In fact, it is admirable that he even gets out of bed each morning when you consider everything his chosen profession has thrown at him.
The latest episode of his irrepressibility sees him again striving in the face of adversity to cement a regular place at Hearts. Some of that adversity has been brought on by the defender himself, as he admits, whilst some is down to nothing other than sheer misfortune.
After spending a year out recovering from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, he was given his first start in 14 months against Celtic last month. By half-time he had been sent off for leading with an elbow in a challenge on Jeremy Toljan. It was back to square one with an automatic two-game ban.
On Saturday at Hamilton, Brandon reappeared once more on the Hearts teamsheet. Fellow right-back Marcus Godinho is managing his own knee issues at the moment and was not risked on the synthetic surface in Lanarkshire. Brandon therefore got his opportunity. He is eager to banish the injury lay-off from his mind and persuade manager Craig Levein that he can become a mainstay.
“Even when I was injured, the manager spoke to me and assured me that I would still have a chance when I came back. I just had to keep doing the right things. Hopefully I can impress him and he keeps giving me chances,” he told the Evening News.
“It’s a lonely time when you’re injured, especially when I was out for so long. Players like Steven Naismith and Steven MacLean have both done their cruciates. They spoke to me and told me to just keep my head down, that I would get back to full fitness.
“Hearing from the gaffer helped as well because he has had similar injuries. I think that was in his mind when he spoke to me. I saw that they had gone through it all and gone on to have good careers, so why can’t I come back and start playing like I did before I got injured?”
Levein certainly rates the youngster highly, although quite how he accomodates Brandon, Godinho and Michael Smith when everyone is fit is another matter.
“I was happy when I found out I was going to be starting again at the weekend. I was starting at right-back and I wanted to get the full game, although I didn’t quite manage it. Marcus can’t play on astroturf because of his knee so I was drafted in and tried to do my best.
“Me and Marcus are good friends off the pitch but on the pitch both of us want to play in that right-back position. We are both doing what we can on the training pitch to try and impress the gaffer and one of us then might get the nod for the weekend.”
At the back of his mind, he might still be trying to atone for the red card against Celtic. His dismissal left Hearts with ten men for 45 minutes and they conceded the decisive goal in the dying seconds of the 2-1 defeat.
“I just apologised to the boys in the changing room,” explained Brandon. “I watched it back and I haven’t meant to go and hit the boy but it looks like I have. It was just a stupid decision, especially so close to half-time. I felt like I cost the boys the three points.
“After a couple of days I tried to move past it. I tried to be as positive as I could in training, working hard and trying to get myself back in the team. The manager said it was a stupid decision but you will learn from it and move past it.
“It was my first start for the first team in 14 months. It was a bit of stupidity and inexperience from me. Learning from that, not going in for that challenge at that time, these are the things you pick up from it.”
Was he over-eager to make an impression having spent so long in rehabilitation and watching from the sidelines? “I think that played a part. I wanted to impress and show I could make the ball but I was disappointed with myself after the game. I didn’t feel right for the next couple of days.”
His mood is improving, thankfully. The 1-0 defeat at Hamilton didn’t help but Brandon knows he is at least back in the frame with some hugely pivotal fixtures awaiting Hearts after the international break.
“I just want to get back to playing football,” he said. “Hopefully I can stay injury-free and do the best I can for Hearts by getting myself in the team. The games coming up are the ones everybody wants to play in, and I certainly do. I want to do enough in training to impress.
“Hopefully I can do enough to be involved, especially in the Scottish Cup semi-final. These are the things I’ve always looked forward to as a player.”
Improving the team’s goal threat first will be important. They failed to properly trouble the Hamilton goalkeeper Gary Woods and left the Hope CBD Stadium dejected.
“We didn’t do ourselves justice in the first 20 minutes, we didn’t start well and that led to what happened in the rest of the game. It gave Hamilton hope that they can win,” said Brandon.
“It was disappointing for us. We thought we could go to Hamilton and win and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that. The boys spoke in the changing room about what we need to do better. We can’t let games like that against teams in the bottom half of the table get away from us. We need to pick up points from them.
“We need to create more chances, the gaffer wants us to get crosses in the box, we need to hold the ball up at the top, everyone needs to move the ball quicker with a higher tempo to the play.
“The gaffer sees things better from the side of the pitch than we do when we are on the pitch. Whatever he says, you’ve got to take it on board and try to improve.”