ROSS CALDWELL has been the scourge of Hearts at youth level, the powerful striker boasting a record of seven goals in seven starts against the junior Jambos. The Hibs kid, however, admits he’d gladly swap all of them for the winner at Tynecastle tomorrow.
Although he’s yet to face Hearts in a full Edinburgh derby, the 19-year-old claimed he knows what to expect if boss Pat Fenlon gives him the nod having faced most of Gary Locke’s Gorgie outfit in recent years.
Hearts financial plight has seen the likes of Kevin McHattie, Jamie Walker, Jason Holt, Callum Tapping, Billy King, Callum Paterson and Dale Carrick fast-tracked into the first team, while Caldwell has been forced to patiently await a chance to hit the big time as he’s watched pals Danny Handling and Alex Harris grab the headlines in recent weeks.
But having scored his first SPL goal against St Mirren a couple of weeks ago, Caldwell insisted he’s ready and willing should he be called upon in the fifth and final Capital derby of the season, one which Fenlon’s players go into determined to maintain their unbeaten record against their biggest rivals.
He said: “I was actually going over my record against them during the week. It’s seven goals in seven starts, but I’d happily swap them for tomorrow if it was the winner.
“The highlight was scoring twice in the youth cup a couple of years ago at Easter Road. We were a goal down with a minute to go and I scored to take the game into extra-time and then scored early in that period with what proved to be the winner. Most of their players have now progressed to the first team.”
Caldwell has already had a taste of a full-blown derby, having been an unused substitute when Fenlon’s side earned a battling draw at Tynecastle at the turn of the year and, he claimed, the only difference was the size of the crowd.
He said: “It’s not daunting, it’s just another game and I think the fact they have so many players you have already played against makes it easier. I know I’m more than capable of playing against them because I’ve done it before, so if the gaffer wants to throw me in, I am ready.
“At youth level it’s still means as much to the players who have grown up in the city and support the teams they are playing for. There is still a lot of passion. They are good games to play in, they get a bit tasty. I don’t see too much difference between them and the first-team games apart from the crowd and the atmosphere as we normally get a couple of hundred at our games.
“The last time I was at Tynecastle I made it onto the bench and it was a really good atmosphere, really intense. It helps you gain experience. Going down the touchline to warm up you get abuse, but it helps you become a stronger player.”
Although the Hearts youngsters have been earning rave reviews as Locke’s side in the past few weeks, Caldwell insisted Hibs have just as many talented kids, pointing to how their Under-20 side wrapped up their season with back-to-back wins over league and cup double-winners Celtic in the space of three days.
Having scored what proved to be the winner as the young Celts were beaten 2-1 on Tuesday night, Caldwell was forced to take a back seat on Thursday evening, presumably with tomorrow in mind, and was delighted to see James McDonaugh’s side win 2-1 again to leave them unbeaten in the final six matches of the season, a run which has all but secured them third place in the table.
Caldwell said: “We have a good number of youngsters at this club and we have been in and around the first team, even if we haven’t been playing. I came here at under-15 level and I did so because of the players Hibs have brought through over the years and I’m still here because I believe that’s the philosophy the club has.
“I’m not jealous of the boys playing at Hearts because that is because of a financial crisis. It’s been forced on them.”
Nevertheless, Caldwell revealed he hasn’t been shy to knock on Fenlon’s door. He said: “You want to make as big an impact as possible so you can chap on the manager’s door and ask why you are not playing. He’s really good with me and all the other young boys. If you ever need to say anything – within reason – he’ll listen to you.”