Jimmy Dunne is ready for a Hearts debut today after being inspired by an Edinburgh Fringe play on the club’s World War I history.
A War of Two Halves was performed in front of the entire squad at Tynecastle Park this week, leaving new loan signing Dunne eager to get on the pitch against Kilmarnock this afternoon.
The play details the story of the Hearts players who decamped for battle in 1914 to join Sir George McCrae’s Battalion. Thirteen players from arguably the greatest team in Tynecastle history enlisted for duty in the Great War and seven lost their lives. Harry Wattie, Duncan Currie, Ernie Ellis, Jimmy Speedie, Jimmy Body, Tom Gracie and John Allan all perished. Paddy Crossan and Robert Mercer eventually suffered wartime gassing, while Alfie Briggs ended up crippled and unable to play football again.
Dunne’s first day after his temporary move from Burnley was spent taking in the story.
“I didn’t know what was going on at first,” said the 20-year-old centre-back. “That was my first day. I thought: ‘These guys are mental.’ It was really brilliant and it gave me an insight on how important the history of this club is.
“I knew Hearts had a huge fanbase and the numbers at the games were brilliant. I didn’t quite know deeply enough how vital the history of the club was. It really does give you an extra bit of motivation to give something back to the fans.
“All the players and staff were at the play. I think it was the first time a lot of them got an insight into the club’s history in such depth as well. It puts us all on the same wavelength. After we saw the show, we were talking amongst ourselves, saying: ‘Oh my god, I didn’t know the club went through something like that at that time.’
“It must have been unbelievably difficult. It puts things into perspective. We think we feel pressure. Well, those lads back then must have really felt pressure.
“I certainly didn’t know as much about Hearts’ history as I do now. I’ve learned all about the players who had to go out and fight in the war. That’s given me a taste of what the club is all about and how passionate the fans are, which is brilliant. It gives you an extra little bit of motivation. You are playing for people who really care about the club.”
Should Dunne find himself thrown in for a debut alongside John Souttar this afternoon at Rugby Park, he now feels more than ready.
“Yes, absolutely. The two days we’ve trained have been tough but good,” he said. “I feel comfortable already as everyone is so nice. They are all on the same wavelength so I think, if I’m called on, it will go alright. John Souttar has been playing more on the right side [of the two centre-backs] so if it was to happen I would probably be on the left. I’m right footed but last season and during pre-season I have found myself on the left side more. I’m comfortable with either.”
Dunne’s loan runs until January to cover for hamstring injury which has sidelined the Hearts captain Christophe Berra until next year.
“They are big boots to fill. He has been such a leader to all the lads and the club have really relied on him, so it will be tough,” admitted the Republic of Ireland Under-21 cap. “I’m sure, if I do the basics right and defend properly for the team, then I’ll be okay.”
Dunne brings a winner’s mentality after helping Accrington Stanley gain promotion from into England’s League One whilst on loan there last season. “It’s competitive here and there is so much for me to learn. At my age, that’s still what it’s about. Winning the league with Accrington Stanley has really give me a feeling for it. I want to win games now. As well as my development being important, I’m really focused on winning games.”