New Hearts signing explains why he chose Tynecastle over Spurs
The 16-year-old Riccarton academy graduate spent a week on trial at the English Premier League club before deciding his future prospects would be better served in Edinburgh.
The reason is simple: He sees a clearer pathway to first-team football at Tynecastle Park. The thought of under-18 football, under-23s and possibly a loan move didn’t appeal in London.
“I went down for a week’s trial at Spurs,” he explained to the Evening News. “It was just to see what it was like down in England, get a bit more experience and see what I could learn.
“I wanted to see if I liked it and compare myself to the other boys. England is meant to be the best league in the world with all the best players.
“I went down and tried it but I decided on Hearts. I think this is a better club for me to progress. There is more likelihood of me getting into the first team here.
“I’ve signed a professional contract here but in England you don’t get that until you’re 18. You need to go on a scholarship, then go through under-23s, which is a long age-group when you step up from under-18s.
“Only after that can you look at the first team, or possibly a loan. I thought if I stayed here I could push myself. Hopefully I can break into the first team because I’ve already played for the reserves.
“I think everyone in my family was kind of rooting for England because it was a bigger club but then we all realised it’s not all about moving early.
“Everyone is really happy that I spoke to Robbie Neilson and everything was good to come back. My family are proud that I’ve got a contract here, but also proud that I went down and experienced England, stayed in digs, things like that.”
Hearts offered Flatman a contract earlier this summer and were told he wanted to try England. He hails from near Coatbridge and joined the Riccarton youth academy four years ago from Stenhousemuir.
He now joins John Rankin’s under-18 squad. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to get but I ended up getting a three-year deal. “It’s a great atmosphere at the club so I’m really happy,” said the teenager, who has clear ideas on how he wants to develop his game.
“I’m just a really aggressive centre-back. I’d say I’m modern when I’m on the ball. I’m right-footed but I can play left centre-back.
“Everybody looks at [Virgil] Van Dijk and I know very centre-back will say that. I like people like Nemanja Vidic – a really aggressive defender who goes for everything. I like the way Van Dijk plays on the ball.”
Advice from Hearts predecessors like Christophe Berra is already being taken on board. “I’ve trained with Christophe a few times and he has coached us a few times as well. That is a factor in making me a better player,” said Flatman.
“Aaron Hughes also came in and coached for a while. Getting tips from really experienced centre-backs like them is great for me.”