Rory Currie can sense the mood changing around Hearts this summer.
The 19-year-old striker made his first-team debut in Robbie Neilson’s penultimate game in charge against Motherwell last November and went on to make 11 appearances in total before the season’s end. Unfortunately for the youngster, the majority of those outings came at a time when the team started nosediving following a mid-term change of head coach and subsequent squad overhaul. As guns were trained on a struggling group of players from angry supporters, confidence evaporated and team camaraderie was, understandably in the circumstances, limited.
Following some exciting close-season transfer activity, however, the feelgood factor has swiftly started to return to the club over the past two months. Supporters have rediscovered their optimism and, as Currie reports, the dressing-room has regained its heartbeat.
“There are definitely better vibes this year,” said the striker. “All the new boys have come in and we’ve all got a team bond. You can feel it already, it’s feeling a lot better. We didn’t do so well last year and I think that brought the morale down, but things are starting to feel good again after a good pre-season. The supporters are seeming just as excited about the new season as we are so it’s a good feeling throughout the place.”
Despite a chastening start to life in the first team, Currie was eager to get back to work this summer and start building on a maiden season in the first team in which he made two starts and scored once. All of this was more than the former Rangers and Celtic youngster anticipated when he arrived at Tynecastle a year ago, but now he is hungry for more. “It’s good to be back playing after not the longest of breaks,” he said. “After getting involved with the first team last season, my motivation levels were high so, after a couple of weeks off, I couldn’t wait to get back in and start playing again. My aims this season are to hopefully get some starts, get a few goals and help the team do well.”
Following his first season as a first-team player, Currie, well aware of the excellent opportunity he has earned for himself at one of the most prominent clubs in Scotland, made sure he remained ultra-professional throughout his summer break.
“I had to look after my body more, keep in shape, go to the gym, go out running and things like that,” said the youngster, who has featured regularly in pre-season. “I had to do that most days just to keep in shape and maintain my fitness to stay up with all the more experienced players. When you come into the first team, you need to make sure you look after yourself and don’t go down a bad road. I’ve definitely had to make a lot of sacrifices over the last few years to give myself the best possible chance. I don’t see my friends as much as I used to because I’m in here full-time and then going home tired and resting up for the next day. You get into a routine.”
Currie made his first competitive appearance of the season when he came off the bench for the last 15 minutes as Hearts defeated a stubborn Elgin City side 1-0 at Borough Briggs in their Betfred Cup opener on Tuesday. The Tynecastle side host another lower-league opponent today in East Fife and, considering Hearts won only two of their last 16 games of last season, the young striker knows the importance of reacquainting themselves with the winning feeling early on in the new campaign.
“We want a decent performance against East Fife, but the main thing in these competitive matches is to come away with a win to build momentum. We did that against Elgin on Tuesday, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.
“We’ve talked about finishing top of the group, then hopefully giving ourselves a chance to go all the way and win the competition. In the league we’re hoping to win a lot more games than we did last season.”