Lisa King has hardly been off the phone to her 18-year-old son, Adam, since he upped sticks for a dream move from Hearts to Swansea City of the English Premier League two weeks ago.
She needn’t fret, however, as her boy is having the time of his life in south Wales.
While many fresh-faced teenagers might have been daunted at the prospect of leaving the relative comfort zone of a team they had been part of since childhood to move away from home and join a vibrant club in the richest league in the world, this humble and level-headed Portobello boy has taken the jump in his stride.
“It’s been absolutely brilliant so far,” said King, who is currently back in his homeland for a two-day training camp with Scotland Under-19s in Cumbernauld. “I’ve settled in really well. I’m not actually finding it that hard being away from home, although I have only been away for two weeks, mind you.
“It’s obviously difficult leaving your family but it’s for a brilliant cause, to improve my career. It’s a great time for me. Everyone speaks to you – it’s a real family club. They’ve got people there to help you settle in but the boys just treat you like you’ve been there for ten years. I really feel at home down there – I feel like I’ve been there for years. I speak to my family every day anyway. My mum’s always on my case every minute of the day. She texts me all the time to check I’m okay – she’s a right worrier. My dad’s always there on the phone to get advice and pointers off and I’m obviously still in touch with all the boys from Hearts as well.”
The sacking of manager Michael Laudrup last week might have been seen as an untimely spanner in the works for Swansea’s starry-eyed new boy, but King was given no reason for concern. Having already enjoyed exposure to first-team training, the midfielder, signed primarily as an Under-21 player, was reassured by conversations with Gary Monk, the interim manager, in which he was given every encouragement that, as long as he performs, he has the chance of being fast-tracked into full Premier League action.
“I think it was one of the scouts who headhunted me rather than Michael Laudrup,” he told the Evening News. “I met Michael, but obviously he left just after I arrived. I’ve spoken to Gary Monk a few times and he’s been brilliant with me. He’s had me training with the first-team and he’s always making sure I’m okay and I’m settled and that the boys are getting to know me. The manager’s already told me that if I do well with the 21s, I’ll be training with the first team and maybe even playing. Hopefully I can just kick on and play at a consistent level and maybe get some opportunities.
“I’ve already trained with the first team a couple of times and it’s brilliant – it’s just a different level. The standard and quality is outstanding – you really notice the difference just from training with them. You can see why they’re in the Premier League because they move the ball so quickly. It’s hard to single anyone out. Ashley Williams, the captain, Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer ... they’re all outstanding on the ball and they help you out and look after you as well.”
King’s move was particularly eye-catching as he had made only three appearances for the Hearts first team before Swansea shelled out around £200,000 to take him to Wales.
The youngster believes it was his playing style and desire to play quick, short passes which attracted the free-flowing Swans to him. “I’ve spoken to the coaching staff at Swansea and they felt I’d be able to fit into what they’re trying to do down there,” he said. “From training with them, you can see how quick they move the ball about and it suits my game.
“I like to get the ball down and pass it and that’s what you need to do down there because nobody really takes any more than two touches unless they’re a wide player. For me being a central midfield player, that really suits me. I just want to take the ball and pass it five yards.”
Without getting ahead of himself, King has already had his appetite whetted for first-team action by attending his new club’s last two home games, against Fulham and Cardiff, both of which Swansea won. “There’s not much quite like the Edinburgh derby but Swansea-Cardiff came close,” he said of the south Wales fixture. “The place was jumping and it was a great standard of football.”
That comment sums up how highly he still thinks of his former club. As a Hearts supporter, he admits he would love to have made more of an impact on the first team before moving on to bigger things. Nonetheless, after making his debut for the Swansea Under-21s against Bristol City on Monday, he was delighted to get back up to Edinburgh earlier this week to catch up with friends and family and watch his old Hearts Under-20s team-mates face Hibs on Tuesday night.
“It’s a shame I didn’t play a few more games for Hearts because the move came about so early in my career, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. I was just focused ontrying to do my best for the under-20s but Swansea obviously noticed that and thought I could be a part of their team.
“When the opportunity came up, I jumped at it. It took me by surprise how quickly it all happened because I just stayed down there after I had my medical, so I didn’t have a chance to say bye to everyone and thank people.
“It’s been good to be back up this week and see all the boys and coaching staff again. I don’t think you’ll ever meet a better bunch of boys than the Hearts Under-20s. It was outstanding to be part of that group. It was obviously hard leaving Hearts because they’ve done so much for me and it was brilliant to be a part of the club. It was good that Hearts got a bit of money for me in the current situation. I’m glad I was able to give them something back for everything they’ve done for me.”
Another minor regret for King is that he didn’t get the chance to play in a competitive game alongside his big brother Billy. Coming from a big Hearts family – King’s two younger brothers, Ross and Robbie, are also aspiring footballers – it would have been meant the world to Lisa and Joe King to see their two oldest boys don the famous maroon jersey together. Aside from 16 minutes in a low-key friendly against German side Wolfsburg in November, the closest they got was last Boxing Day when Adam was subbed at half-time against Kilmarnock just as Billy was getting stripped to come on.
“It would have been brilliant for the family to see both of us on the pitch at the same time but, apart from the Wolfsburg game, it never happened,” he said. “Hopefully at some point in the future I’ll get to play with at least one of my brothers.”
While some observers can be sceptical about young Scottish players heading south too early, King is experiencing positive vibes and believes he now has the perfect platform from which to flourish in the game. “If it doesn’t work out, then so be it, but I’m sure everyone down at Swansea will be doing their best to try and help me and I’ll certainly be doing everything I can to make it work,” he said.
“Worst-case-scenario, if it doesn’t work out then I’ll just drop down a level. Having been down there for two weeks, I’m feeling really positive about it. I’ve no regrets at all.”