After facing Liverpool and San Jose Earthquakes with Manchester United during the summer, Demetri Mitchell plans to cause shockwaves of his own at Hearts. If he can do so as a winger rather than a full-back, so much the better.
Mitchell has returned to Edinburgh on loan hoping to pick up where he left off last season. This time, he is eager to display his attacking panache and believes he could be a dangerous winger for Hearts rather than a left-back like last time.
“I’d like to do that,” he said. “I like to play right-wing and cut inside. I like to play left-back and defend. I like playing left-wing, too. I’d like to play on the wing and show a bit of flair but it’s up to the manager. I’m happy playing wherever he puts me – left-wing, right-wing, left-back.
“I played left wing-back with United when I started against Liverpool [during the pre-season trip to America] and I played left-wing in the first game against San Jose. It was good.
“I was away with the first team to LA the summer before so this was my second time away. I was just focusing on working hard and getting the minutes in. All the first team players are helpful. It’s a good environment.”
The Australian defender Ben Garuccio’s solid displays at left-back could help Mitchell’s case for playing further forward and being used more as an attacking weapon in Scotland.
He comes with a background of the highest calibre and is already popular with Hearts fans after 11 impressive displays during last year’s loan spell. albeit in defence. Craig Levein, the Tynecastle manager, made bringing Mitchell back one of his main priorities.
First, the player had to agree a contract extension at Old Trafford. That was completed last weekend. “Yes, until 2020,” said Mitchell, who had several English Championship clubs coveting his loan signature as well as Hearts.
“It was important for me and the club to sign a new deal because I would have been up in the summer and this gives me confidence that they see a future with me at the club.
“I had a conversation with the [Hearts] manager and Austin [MacPhee, assistant coach] about coming back at the end of last season and I was looking forward to it. I was looking at options but this was the right one for me. There were other clubs interested but I would rather focus on Hearts because I’m focused on the task in hand and the season ahead.”
One of the key factors in his return was public support in the maroon half of Edinburgh. Hearts fans recognised Mitchell’s quality during the second half of last season and were hopeful his return could be negotiated successfully by their club’s hierarchy.
“It was the fans. They showed me a lot of support at the ground and on social media too,” explained the 21-year-old.
“I really felt the love of the fans. It’s a big club in Scotland but also the manager showed his confidence in me. He threw me into the deep end against Hibs in the cup and he showed me I would get game time if I worked hard and performed.”
Then came a meniscus injury which sidelined him for eight weeks, leaving him feeling like he didn’t reach his full potential.
“Yes. I feel like I have more to show,” he continued. “I didn’t play as much as I should have played due to that injury. I played 11 games. I still have more to show the fans that they have not seen and I am looking forward to doing that.”
He got a considerable surprise re-entering the Riccarton dressing room earlier this week. Mitchell is the 16th summer arrival in a squad which has been totally transformed since he left in May.
“I’ve only been gone about four months now and half the players are not here,” he laughed. “That was a bit of a shock to me. I’ve come back to loads of new signings but they look very good players. Training is very competitive and the standards are really high.”
On a more serious note, Mitchell was taken aback hearing that Levein was admitted to hospital after falling ill at the start of the week. He is now recovering at home and the Hearts players want to beat St Mirren today and stay top of the Ladbrokes Premiership for their manager.
“The news was shocking, of course, but I was pleased to hear he was recovering well. I’ve heard Austin (MacPhee) saying that he is in good nick. That’s very good and pleasing to hear,” said Mitchell.
“The manager’s situation means we want to work hard and get a result for him against St Mirren.
“It would be good if we got the three points and we were still on top of the league tonight. I think winning would make him feel good and it would also make us feel good that we had managed to do that for the manager.”