'You don't stab people in the back.' Kye Rowles speaks on his Hearts future and reveals how long he wants to stay
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The Australian defender discusses his future with a calm assurance in an exclusive Evening News interview. When Joe Savage, Hearts’ sporting director, alluded to transfer interest in Rowles at the club’s recent AGM, the prospect of losing the reliable centre-back agitated many connected to Tynecastle Park. His form at the World Cup in Qatar understandably captured attention, but his career in maroon is still very much in its infancy after he was lured to Europe from Central Coast Mariners in June.
Manager Robbie Neilson quickly allayed concerns by revealing publicly that Rowles had made clear his intention to stay put. The player happily divulges why when asked. “I think it’s a pretty simple one: I didn’t come over here to leave six months later. Nor did I think it would happen that way,” he says.
“There hasn’t been too much news about it and I’m not paying attention to it anyway. I’m focused on here with these boys and I want to stay here for as long as possible. Hopefully we get into European football again and really start pushing for third and second position. I will keep playing football, keep my head down and stay focused.
“You don’t want to stab people in the back who have put so much trust in you and given you such a good opportunity. I’m not going to do that. I’m grateful for this opportunity that Hearts have given me and I want to repay the faith that the club and fans have put in me. I want to do all the boys proud as well. It really feels like we are fighting for each other out there. That’s when you know you’ve got a good group, when you all put yourself on the line for each other. It’s a good feeling at the moment.”
As well as being a relative newcomer, he is still just 24 and hasn’t put a foot wrong in the Hearts defence to date. Fans are entitled to ponder how commanding he will become in future with more development and experience. His own insatiable appetite means he isn’t satisfied. As it stands, Rowles is playing the best football of his career so far and was imperious in Wednesday’s 3-2 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.
“I would say so, but obviously I want to keep getting better and improving the areas that could be potential weaknesses. Training with these guys every day has taken me a few steps forward in my game. I feel I’m getting there with each game. The boys are all starting to get their groove back and get on the same wavelength after the World Cup. I think we are all getting on the same page again.
“I’ve only been over here for six months or so. I feel I’ve learned a lot already and hopefully I continue to learn. I’m a keen learner, I want to take in as much information as possible and apply it to my trade.”
Visits to Dundee United and St Johnstone quickly reacquainted him with the travails of Scottish football following a few weeks of Qatar glamour. He didn’t look flustered at any point, it must be said. “They have been two tough trips but it was a while since we won at St Johnstone. We played some good football on Wednesday and scored some good goals. Hopefully we keep that going and tighten up at the back.
“They started throwing numbers forward late on. Sometimes when you’re pumping it long, you can get a few lucky bounces. We were just putting in last-ditch challenges and clearances, plus a few saves from Zander [Clark]. I think we showed a bit of resilience. We controlled the game and then let them back into it with a couple of sloppy moments.”
Hearts enter the New Year three points clear in third place in the Premiership as they prepare to welcome Hibs to Gorgie on Monday. “That’s where we aimed to be as a minimum. The other two clubs above are pretty far in front but that’s who we want to catch up. We have a good baseline now and we want to keep building on it into the New Year,” says Rowles.
With his rugged, aggressive attitude, he is tailor-made for derby football. His first experience of the Edinburgh version came at Easter Road in August as Martin Boyle’s dramatic late equaliser rescued a point for the hosts following Lawrence Shankland’s opening goal for Hearts. Tynecastle will be a similar atmosphere given the hostilities that characterise these Capital clashes.
“I love them to be honest,” smiles Rowles. “There are derbies at home where people get stuck in but not on this scale. I love derbies. It’s always good to have one up on your rivals and here it’s in the same city so it means a bit more. I remember how good it felt back home in Australia to shut up the other team.
“At Central Coast Mariners, our rivals were Newcastle Jets [Gosford and Newcastle are more than 50 miles apart]. At first we struggled against them and they were getting the better of us. I didn’t like it. Then last year we did them in all three games and I can’t think of a better feeling. Hopefully I can keep that run going here.”
If he succeeds, Rowles’ rapidly-growing popularity will simply take on an even steeper trajectory.