IN a perverse way, Hearts’ success towards the end of the season is actually restricting young players who are seeking first-team exposure.
The critical nature of every match between now and mid-May makes it difficult for manager Paulo Sergio to blood academy kids. But it’s better that than having weeks of meaningless fixtures, even though they would suit inexperienced youths.
Jason Holt is one of those being kept largely in reserve while his more experienced colleagues deal with pursuing a European place via the SPL. He is then likely to be granted a watching brief for the Scottish Cup final with Hibs on May 19. A place on the substitutes’ bench at Hampden is expected to be his best hope.
He isn’t complaining. As a Hearts supporter, the 19-year-old from Musselburgh is enjoying being part of a thrilling end to the campaign. “If there was not a lot to play for the gaffer probably would have put a lot of young players in, but because all the games between now and the end of the season are really important for the club, he needs to think about that as well,” said the extremely articulate midfielder. “Even though the games have been really important, he has still stuck us in, he has kept us involved. Even in the semi-finals he put Denis (Prychynenko) on, so it shows he willing to put youngsters in.
“He’s not said anything yet (about cup final places) but I think he will go on how people are performing and training in games and take his selection from there. If we keep impressing, then hopefully there is a chance. It’s a massive game and, being a Hearts fan as well, I was at the last cup final. Just to be involved would mean a lot to me. In the last final I went with one of my mates and his dad, I can’t really remember much. I remember some of the game but just lifting the cup with the fans celebrating was good.
“I was quite young then, I’m not sure if we got tickets through the club or just bought them. It was a great occasion. It seems quite surreal that I could play in this final, I’m a young boy now and just enjoying training with all the first-team players and being involved. It’s massive for the club.”
Holt could be involved at Tannadice this afternoon, the venue where he made his Hearts debut in the final match of last season. Since then, his development has been honed during a loan spell with Raith Rovers. “I was at Raith for a few months and they helped my progression so I look out for their results,” he said. “It’s completely different playing first-team football, I don’t think people realise how different it is to under-19s football. The First Division is even different from the SPL. It was an eye-opener. Even the facilities are different to here. It definitely makes you appreciate more what you’ve got. You come in here and you have changing rooms and you train at the stadium.
“There, it was a case of sometimes training at local parks. You just slipped your boots on and trained. We heard before we went that players have gone there and developed so much. Hopefully that will stand all the Hearts boys in good stead.”
Holt is confident that the emerging Hearts players will be given an opportunity, even if they do need to wait until next season. “You hear a lot about the finances of the club on the news and in the papers but it has been proven that Hearts will play young boys.”