Popular team-mate, fan favourite, exciting star and injury question - Hearts signing of Josh Ginnelly makes sense
Every home game there he was, in the tunnel greeting and geeing up colleagues, then up in the stands supporting them. Always upbeat, always smiling and always laughing.
New Hearts signing Josh Ginnelly is one of football’s good guys and a team-mate in every sense.
Even with his season long ended back in January due to a ruptured hamstring suffered at Raith Rovers, he maintained a presence. Many players would spend their time elsewhere if they weren't going to feature. Not Ginnelly, he appeared to love being in Tynecastle and there is no doubting he loves being at Hearts.
A mere sight of his beaming smile visibly lifted the mood of many who encountered ‘Gino’.
That’s because the 24-year-old is a hugely popular figure in Gorgie, both with the fans and those he shares a dressing room with. You’d be hard pressed to find someone with something negative to say.
The now retired Steven Naismith even admitted that Ginnelly instantly altered his perception of the winger.
“The first day he came in I thought we were singing Ronaldo,” Naismith said during the season. “They way he dressed, the way he carried himself… my honest opinion when he walked in was; ‘who’s this walloper? This will be fun. I’ll not be talking to this guy whatsoever!’
"But all of my perceptions of him were wrong. He’s a great guy. A very lively character, but it’s needed and he’s been a breath of fresh air since he came in.”
There was a moment in the 3-0 win over Alloa back in November when Liam Boyce was nutmegged and Ginnelly, sitting in the stand, let out an excitable laugh. Even his laugh is infectious.
In agreeing a two-year deal with the Englishman, Robbie Neilson has retained a key member of the dressing room dynamic. The type of vibrant personality every squad needs.
While there is no doubting his impact off the pitch, what will really matter is on it.
First thing’s first, Hearts fans are quite rightly delighted that Ginnelly is staying but understandably there are a few questions surrounding his injury status.
He played just ten games – and under 500 minutes – for the club on loan from Preston North End last season. It was down to two issues. The first was a complex problem involving his quad and hip. The second a hamstring injury.
The player played down suggestions he is "injury prone”. He had a hip issue in the past while on loan at Bristol Rovers in 2020 but the type of dynamic, quick player Ginnelly is, he could simply be more susceptible than others.
In addition, in seasons 2017/18 and 2018/19 he played 30 or more games in each.
And there is nothing Hearts fans want more than seeing Ginnelly play regularly. After all, he provided the team with something Neilson and the supporters craved: pace, width, directness.
The winger is someone who doesn't play with fear, someone who excites fans, someone who full-backs and defenders hate playing against.
Ginnelly can take players on, he can dribble, he can pass and he can also score. Albeit a small sample size, no player in the Championship had a better goals per 90 minutes ratio last season.
Hearts have started their summer business with a universally popular addition.