In a candid conversation with head coach Robbie Neilson a month ago, Scott Robinson was informed that he probably wouldn’t get as many opportunities in the first team as he would like, and that he would be free to move on if he wished to find a new club.
After eight years at Tynecastle, and, having worked so hard to finally experience life as a regular starter under Gary Locke last term, 22-year-old Robinson, who is contracted until the end of the season, decided his status as a Hearts player was too much to give up.
Despite interest from Falkirk and Kilmarnock, he decided that Hearts is where his heart is. Asked if he was interested in the prospect of moving on to fresh pastures, Robinson told the Evening News: “No, my instant reaction was to stay and fight for my place.
“I’d always want to see my contract out anyway, but this is the club that I love and the club that I want to play for. Until the day comes where maybe I have to leave because my contract runs out, that would be the only way I would leave.
“I would never walk away from Hearts. I’ll fight to stay here for as long as I can.
“Look at the stadium and the support, it’s a massive club. I’m from Edinburgh – it’s perfect for me. I’ve loved my time here and I want to stay here as long as possible.”
Robinson had a hunch he had slipped down the pecking order after Hearts signed Morgaro Gomis and Prince Buaben, an established midfield partnership from their Dundee United days, in the summer.
While understandably disappointed at relinquishing his hard-earned regular status, he appreciated the “honesty” of Neilson in explaining that he might not feature as often as he would like this season. A first league start of the season in Saturday’s 5-1 rout of Cowdenbeath showed there is still hope for the midfielder at Tynecastle.
“Everything’s fine with the manager – there’s no hard feelings at all between us,” he stressed. “He was just being up front and honest with me, which is what you want. He gave me my chance against Cowdenbeath and hopefully I took it. I can just keep working away in training and try to play as many games as possible.
“I know how football works – if the team’s winning, I’m not going to get in straight away, and that was the case at the start of the season when the team was doing great and winning every week.
“Thankfully, my chance has come and whenever it does come I’ll always give 100 per cent for the club, for the manager and for my team-mates.”
Robinson’s hopes of re-establishing himself as a first choice in the Hearts engine room were dented by the most untimely of suspensions. He already had a two-game ban carried over from last season, which ruled him out for the Petrofac Training Cup game against Annan and the league opener at Rangers. Then a red card in a pre-season friendly against Bulgarian side Ludogorets Razgrad, which Robinson remains baffled by, merely added to his predicament as it ruled him out of the home game against Hibs. By the time he was available for competitive action, Hearts were riding high at the top of the league, with Buaben, Gomis and Jason Holt patrolling the central midfield area.
When Spaniard Miguel Pallardo arrived earlier this month, it simply intensified competition for Robinson’s position. However, he was given an unexpected boost at the weekend when, with Buaben suspended and Pallardo still short of fitness, he got the nod to start in place of Holt, who dropped to the bench.
A few congratulatory words and a warm handshake from Neilson as he left the stadium on Saturday night gave Robinson a welcome lift.
“It was a great to be back, a great feeling,” he said. “The suspensions started everything off for me, putting a delay on the start of my season.
“You can’t let all that affect you, you’ve just got to stay mentally strong, keep working away every day in training and hopefully your chance comes, and thankfully against Cowdenbeath it did. Hopefully I did well enough to keep my name in the manager’s mind.”
Such is Robinson’s diminished status at Tynecastle this season, he knows that, with Buaben free of suspension, he could find himself back out of the team for tomorrow night’s League Cup trip to Celtic. “I know that when Prince is back I might be back out the team again, but that’s up to the manager and whatever he thinks is best to win any football match,” he said. “I’ll always accept his decision and I’ll never stop working hard in training, and applying myself correctly and professionally every day. I still believe I can prove myself here. I believe I can do a good job for the team and do whatever is asked of me on a matchday.
“I’d love to try and fight for a new contract, but we’ll need to wait and see what happens.”
Robinson’s return coincided with Hearts’ first 5-1 win since they beat Hibs by the same iconic scoreline in the 2012 Scottish Cup final. The fact it came on the same day that Rangers and Hibs slipped up merely added to the sense of delight for the midfielder as his side moved three points clear at the top of the Championship. “It was a massive win for us with the teams around us dropping points as well,” he continued. “You can’t ask for anything more.
“The first half wasn’t great but I think we showed the reaction the manager wanted in the second half. We came out all guns blazing.
“By the end, I wasn’t actually totally sure what the score was – it was only when I heard the fans singing ‘we only won 5-1’ that I realised we’d scored five.”