Taylor Moore set for Hearts exit as he delivers final message on Tynecastle loan
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The season-long loan in Edinburgh is drawing to a close and Moore ranks it the finest time of his career. It is quite the statement from a player reared at French club Lens and who represented England Under-20s alongside parent club Bristol City.
Season 2021/22 at Tynecastle Park will live long in the memory and may yet climax at Hampden Park on May 21. Moore, 24, has enjoyed momentous Edinburgh derbies, trips to Celtic Park and Ibrox, a semi-final at the national stadium, all while helping Hearts qualify for European competition.
It is rare to see the softly-spoken Englishman without a smile on his face. He is contractually obliged to return to Bristol next month and will do so carrying a sackful of happy memories which have bettered him both as a footballer and a person.
“I could sit here all day and talk to you about it,” he says, in conversation with the Evening News. “I’ve learned as much on the pitch as off the pitch about football and about myself. Working under Robbie Neilson has been so eye-opening. The way he says the game tactically has been beneficial.
“We played so many different formations this year. Each and every time we change formation, there is an explanation why, there is a demand of what he wants from players in every single position.
“You see the way the club is run. Joe Savage [sporting director] is doing an incredible job as well. There are some good young players coming through. I’ve absolutely loved every minute of it.
“Going to Ibrox, Celtic Park and Hampden, plus Tynecastle and Easter Road – these are big games. The biggest thing is what it means to people and the passion in Scottish football. It’s been unbelievable.
“I’ve been so proud to be a part of it. I haven’t played as many games as I wanted to, however this has probably been my favourite experience in football so far.
“Living in Edinburgh taught me a lot about myself and my relationship with my Mrs – The Boss. I’ve had family come up and made some amazing memories. It has been a very special place and somewhere I will always hold close to my heart.”
Don’t misinterpret those comments as Moore zipping the suitcases shut just yet. Motivation to play in the final is building. Having waited months for a sustained run in the Hearts team, the centre-back won’t relinquish his place willingly after starting the last three matches.
Injuries to fellow defenders John Souttar, Craig Halkett and Michael Smith created voids which he was desperate to fill. That triumvirate are close to returning and Moore faces a fight to play at Hampden again. There is no shame in being selfish at a time like this.
“To a certain degree, you do have to be selfish in football,” he admits. “I am absolutely loving being in and around this team. I remember speaking to you a few weeks ago and I wasn't in the team. I was working to show the manager that, if he needed me, I’d be there.
“It’s unfortunate to see boys get injured at a crucial part of the season but we have a cup final coming up and I need to prepare myself to play. Some boys will be coming back from injury and in contention so I just need to focus on myself.
“If I am involved on the day I need to make sure I’m ready. I’m just managing myself. That’s why I was still in such a positive mood when I spoke to you a few weeks ago. Although I wasn’t playing, I knew this group of lads were all striving for a certain goal.”
Saturday’s 4-1 defeat at Celtic Park ended a ten-game unbeaten run which helped Hearts reach the final. “We did okay at certain stages of the game but you can’t really walk away after conceding four goals and say you did well,” acknowledges Moore.
“It’s one of the biggest stages in Scottish football against a team who are where they are in the league deservedly. They have an amazing amount of quality but, for me, it was a great experience.
“I felt we were still in the game up until the third goal so there is a lot to learn from, but I’ve still got a smile on my face because I’m enjoying the experience. You look at how the board and manager want to drive this club. Celtic and Rangers is the platform we need to look at but a lot of work still needs to be done.”
How Hearts compare to Rangers will become clearer after the next three games. Following Wednesday’s league trip to Motherwell, Giovanni van Bronckhorst brings his team to Tynecastle on Saturday.
The Ibrox side play Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League final four days later before meeting Hearts again at Hampden just three days after that. Those at Tynecastle hope the schedule takes its toll on their Glasgow counterparts.
“I felt drained after playing Celtic on Saturday. Big games like that take it out of you,” explains Moore. “Rangers will have to travel, deal with nerves, the atmosphere and the build-up to a European final. It does take it out of you as a player. You always hear Jurgen Klopp moaning about back-to-back fixtures.
“The manager told us we are being pushed from now until the end of the season. We are having some very tough days in training to make sure we are as fit as Rangers come May 21. All the best to them but that would be the ideal scenario, that they have a bit of fatigue in them.”