Prince Buaben today revealed he wants to stay at Hearts “forever” because he feels completely at home.
Talks over a new contract are underway and the Ghanaian midfielder is eager to remain at Tynecastle as long as possible. It is expected he will sign a new long-term deal in the next few weeks.
Hearts handed Buaben a one-year contract in the summer when he arrived as a free agent from Carlisle United. He has since established himself as a key component of the club’s midfield alongside Morgaro Gomis, scoring four goals in 15 appearances to date. He is also a favourite amongst supporters, who will welcome the prospect of him staying long-term.
Tynecastle officials will continue talking to Buaben and his representatives with the hope of completing an extended contract soon. The player explained today that there should be no problems from his end because he is desperate to remain a Hearts player.
“If it was up to me, I would like to stay here forever,” said Buaben in an exclusive Evening News interview. “Hopefully I can stay as long as possible. I’ve been speaking to the gaffer [Robbie Neilson] and he’s happy for me to stay. I’m happy as well. Hearts is a good family club. We are still talking so hopefully we can get it sorted soon.
“The supporters are a good bunch and it’s great to have them behind you. Even at away games, we have like 3000 fans with us. It helps us a lot away from home. We had loads of fans away at Queen of the South, for example. As a player, you always want to feel at home. That brings the best out of you, you know?
“I feel at home here. I’m getting support from the fans, from the manager and from Craig Levein as well. The players have been amazing as well. As a footballer, that’s what you want. You want to be somewhere you are happy. Once you’re happy, it brings the best out of you.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Buaben feels Hearts have yet to see him in absolute top form. He admitted still feeling short of fitness after a brief absence through illness but stressed he will work to improve his physical condition. He returned to the starting line-up and scored on Saturday as Queen of the South were dispatched 4-1 at Tynecastle.
“I think I’ve done okay so far. I think I can give more but I’m still trying to get match fitness,” he continued. “Sometimes I feel a bit heavy but I keep training hard because I want to get there as soon as possible. I missed two games against Rangers and Celtic and I’ve come back again trying to get to top form. Hopefully I can get there quickly. From my point of view, I think I can bring more. I will keep training hard every day and hope to find a rhythm soon, along with the match fitness.”
Buaben’s goal at the weekend helped him atone for a first-half penalty miss against a dangerous Queens side. He hit the post from 12 yards with Hearts 1-0 ahead but then scored his team’s third goal with a fine individual effort. He admitted feeling relieved that his mistake did not prove costly. The victory stretched Hearts’ unbeaten league run to 15 games and keeps them nine points clear at the top of the Scottish Championship.
“It was a bit hard to come back in when I hadn’t really played for two weeks, but I got my place and we got a good result so I’m happy with that,” said Buaben. “Missing the penalty was hard to take because you are 100 per cent focused only on scoring in that situation. You try your best but misses happens in football. I knew after I missed that I had to keep my head up. The boys were telling me the same thing, just to stay positive and keep going. Then I got a goal, which helped. Missing the penalty came right back into my head as soon as I scored and I was so happy and relieved.
“We played Queen of the South away from home and they played really well that day. That gaffer told us it would be a difficult game. He said it didn’t matter if it took 80 minutes to get a goal, we just had to keep going, which we did. We did okay in the first half, then they got an equaliser and that made it difficult for us. We have goals in this team so we were able to get a few more and win the game.”
The sense of satisfaction was quickly put to bed after the final whistle, however. “After the game, straight away the gaffer is talking about the next game at Cowdenbeath.
“We were in training on Sunday to start preparing for that so we’re focused on what we’re doing. We get Mondays off but I think it’s good to keep going. You don’t want to have too many days off because then you lose tempo and your fitness suffers. For me, I like the way we work at this club.
“The gaffer keeps pushing us in training and we’re still doing double and triple sessions. Fair play to him, he keeps saying every day is a new day and it’s all about hard work. He never gives up and he never gives us an easy day. That’s where the boys’ focus comes from. We have a good group in the dressing room.
“We don’t really talk about it the unbeaten run, to be honest. The gaffer says to take each game one at a time, always think of the next game coming and don’t think any further ahead. He says we just have to keep winning.”