Craig Levein today delivered a ringing endorsement of 16-year-old Hearts debutant Aaron Hickey by admitting he can’t wait to play the defender every week in the first team.
Hickey made his senior debut in Friday night’s 2-1 defeat at Aberdeen, replacing Jamie Brandon on 62 minutes. He looked assured at right wing-back despite being predominantly a left-sided player.
He only joined the Riccarton youth academy full-time from school last June but has enjoyed a remarkable first year in professional football. That culminated in Friday’s appearance. Levein told the Evening News he is eager to see Hickey playing regularly for Hearts alongside other prodigious teenagers like Harry Cochrane and Connor Smith.
“Aaron has been really good since he’s been training with us,” said the manager. “He doesn’t look out of place with the first team. He is two-footed, he is competitive, he is quick and he has a great calmness in possession. He is a really good player with a good temperament.
“He is actually a left-back, although you wouldn’t know. We played him on the right side on Friday because he has two great feet. He brought a calmness to our passing. I can’t wait to get him, Connor Smith and Harry Cochrane playing on a regular basis. They will just be able to play the way they play. There is no fear in their football. We are seeing some glimpses of that now but it will be a couple of years before we see all the benefits.”
Despite the disappointment of a sixth defeat from Hearts’ last eight matches, another teenager also made his mark at Pittodrie. Bobby Burns scored his first goal for the Edinburgh club by levelling the scoreline at 1-1 before Greg Stewart’s winner.
“Bobby should be pleased with himself. He got himself into a good position and managed to bundle the ball over the line,” said Levein. “I thought we showed good spirit to come back from 1-0 down and we had good spells in the second half. I think we were actually at our best when Aberdeen broke away and scored their second on the counter-attack, which is frustrating.”