Stephen Kingsley speaks on his Hearts future, winning run and relationship with Robbie Neilson
He has already fielded queries from friends and associates on whether he will sign a long-term deal at Tynecastle Park.
Thinking that far ahead might be tempting fate for a player tortured by different injuries at former club Hull City. Kingsley managed only eight appearances there last season.
At 26, he is enjoying the bliss of being back on a football pitch every week. He returned to Scotland to work with Robbie Neilson, a former colleague at Falkirk, live beside family and recapture the rhythm of playing regularly.
It says much for his talent that, after just four Hearts appearances, there is already increasing clamour for Kingsley to agree a longer contract. He is perfectly content to wait another few months.
“The whole draw of coming back to Hearts was being back home with family and getting the games I need. That’s what I’m enjoying most, just getting a smile back on my face again,” he said, speaking exclusively to the Evening News.
“That’s easy when you’re winning. The future genuinely isn’t something I’m thinking about just now. I’m focused on playing every week and loving doing what I do because I had a lot of injury issues at Hull.
“Now that I’m playing, it’s honestly just such a nice feeling to be kicking a football again. I’m not thinking about anything more than that.
“Later in the season I will obviously need to have a think about things but, just now, I don’t even want to have that in my head. I’m just enjoying myself so much.
“I’ve had a lot of worry and anxiety about the future. That’s what injuries do to every player. They make you think about the future: ‘What if this happens? What about that? What am I going to do?’
“That’s the worst thing you can do is think like that. You just need to concentrate on what you can effect and not worry about the future. It’s really quite important that I focus on that just now.
“That’s maybe a lesson I’ve learned from being injured. Don’t worry about what’s going to happen, just enjoy it when you are in a good moment.
“The fans have been really positive and winning games obviously has a massive effect on that. They were so welcoming to me when I first came in.
“I haven’t really been getting questions about my future from them. I’ve been hearing the question from mates, friends and people I know. I certainly don’t feel any pressure around it.”
Hearts will aim to win their seventh successive match tomorrow when they play Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Championship at Tynecastle.
Their most recent triumph came last weekend, beating rivals Hibs in extra-time to earn a Scottish Cup final place. Despite the physical demands of 120 minutes in a pressure-filled situation, Kingsley remains in rude health.
“That’s the longest I’ve played in a good few years. It takes a good few days to get back to neutral but I feel really good. I was expecting to feel worse than I did afterwards, to be honest,” he laughed.
“We are on a good run and I’m just buzzing to keep that going, starting Saturday. I’ve come in when the season has just started and we’ve won every game, which is great. It’s a great bunch of lads and the way we can play has been shown in some of the games.
“We didn’t actually play our best football against Hibs. We could have been a lot better. Confidence comes through when you get into a habit of winning. Keeping that momentum is massive for what we want to achieve this season.”
The stated aim is to win the Championship title and return to the Premiership. Doing so would strengthen Hearts’ case for keeping Kingsley beyond next summer. His relationship with Neilson is also a key factor.
The two played together during Neilson’s brief spell at Falkirk when Kingsley was still a teenager. A triple cheekbone fracture for the former meant they weren’t team-mates for long.
“That was against Dunfermline. That was the only game I played with him and he got cracked. I’m really enjoying having him as a manager now,” said Kingsley.
“It’s been easy to settle in at Hearts. I’ve just moved back into my own house with my family so it’s been really nice having them around me again. Edinburgh isn’t far away and I’ve known Robbie a good few years now.
“I also knew a few of the boys before I came here so everything just clicked. It all felt positive even before I decided this was where I wanted to play. The most important thing is getting the game time.”
He will get more tomorrow, although Inverness at home in the league is slightly different to a national cup semi-final against Hibs.
“It’s easy to get yourself up for a semi-final against Hibs at Hampden. Saturday is about taking all the confidence and winning mentality forward from that game,” said Kingsley.
“You have to take confidence from last week without getting carried away. We need to understand what our job is because the most important thing is getting the three points.
“It’s probably more of a challenge mentally than anything else and that’s what we’ll be focusing on. We don’t want to go into it and get a shock so we need to make sure we are ready. From being around the boys, I think we will be.”