Hearts striker Craig Wighton: I really need to up my game
Hearts striker Craig Wighton today admitted he faces a fight to play next season after a sub-standard first year at Tynecastle Park.
Wighton made 19 appearances without scoring after arriving from Dundee for an undisclosed fee last August. Most of those were as a substitute, including Saturday’s Scottish Cup final against Celtic.
The 21-year-old held his hands up and said he must do better to feature regularly under Hearts manager Craig Levein. He faces competition from Uche Ikpeazu, Steven Naismith, Steven MacLean, Aidan Keena and a new forward next season.
Stressing his performances were not up to par, Wighton pledged to improve over the summer and return to Riccarton to fight for game time.
“It’s not been the season I wanted, I’m not going to hide away from that,” he said. “It’s not been good enough at times and I probably haven’t done myself favours when I have played.
“It’s up to me perform every week to get in the team. There is a lot of competition here so I need to be better. I’ll go away in the summer, work hard, come back and hopefully I can hit the ground running.”
Hearts’ performance in the final offered players and fans encouragement after the club finished sixth in the Ladbrokes Premiership. Wighton insisted they must produce that form regularly.
“I think everybody knows that it’s not been good enough recently, certainly in terms of the last two months. We’ve had a lot of results that haven’t been good, and it’s not just that - it’s performances as well,” he continued.
“We’ve not performed in a lot of games recently. I thought at Parkhead a week earlier we were good, as we were at Hampden against the best team in the country. There is no point in doing that at the end of the season, though, we need to do that every week.”
Determined to show he has a future at Hearts, the cup final appearance gave the Scotland Under-21 internationalist a hint of what he could achieve in Edinburgh.
“These are the games you want to be involved in but ultimately we’ve fallen a wee bit short and I’m gutted just like everyone else,” he said of the 2-1 defeat. “It was a tough one to take, we believed during the week and we were well in the game and it will take time to get over.
“At 1-0 up we were quite comfortable. We limited them to long range shots. They didn’t really create much but when they scored the penalty that gives them a lift. Even after that I thought we were well in the game and when they scored their second goal we had to go for it.
“All in all, I thought we did really well and it was probably two poor goals to lose. We always believe in what we’ve got. Throughout last week other people maybe didn’t give us a chance but we certainly believed.”
Riccarton academy graduate Aaron Hickey was one of the final’s most outstanding performers, a fact not lost on Wighton. “He’s been brilliant. He was playing reserves before and you could see the talent that he has. It’s a big step going from reserves to first team but in the last two games he’s been absolutely brilliant.
“It’s good to see young boys coming through. Harry Cochrane was on the bench and you’ve got Connor Smith. There are a lot of young boys here with a lot of talent. It’s a credit to them and the reserve coaches. If they keep working hard they’ll have big futures.”