TEENAGER Fraser Mullen hopes Hearts stick with their young pretenders and hand him a Scottish Communities League Cup Final slot.
The 19-year-old right-back made only his second top-team appearance for Hearts as they defeated Inverness on penalties in Sunday’s Easter Road semi-final to book a Hampden date against St Mirren on 17 March.
The Glasgow-born defender was one of seven players aged 21 or under in John McGlynn’s starting line-up and he displayed a self-assurance in the win over Caley Thistle that must make him a contender for the jersey when the Scottish Cup winners journey to Glasgow’s southside for their second successive final appearance.
Having shown faith in his young players for the big occasion once, Mullen now hopes the Tynecastle boss is of the same mindset in six weeks’ time.
He said: “It was great to get the chance to play in the semi and to play in the final would be even bigger.
“Now I just need to wait and see if the manager will play me again. I was a wee bit nervous before the game but once I got out on to the pitch, some of the more experienced players told me just to treat it like any other normal game, not to let the crowd get to me and that I’d be fine. They were right.
“It helped having the other young lads in the team. We have all played together since we were young kids and we are used to being out there together. So when you have your mates beside you it does help. You don’t feel like it is all coming down on you as one player.
“It was great when we won the shoot-out. We were jumping about with the fans and everyone was going wild.
“With it being at Easter Road, too, it was even more special for the club. Three sides of the ground was full of our supporters, so it was almost like a home game for us.
“After the game, the gaffer told me he was pleased with how I did, pleased with how we all did.
“But now I need to keep my head down and work hard to try to keep my place.
“The squad is a lot smaller than it has been in the past, so we young boys know if we get a chance we have an opportunity to stay in the team.”
Mullen made his Hearts bow in last season’s Scottish Cup clash with junior outfit Auchinleck Talbot, introducing himself with a man-of-the-match performance as well as missing a penalty in the narrow 1-0 fourth-round win.
That spot-kick aberration, though, was still fresh in his mind as McGlynn sought volunteers for Sunday’s penalty shoot-out decider, which the Jambos won 5-4 following a gritty 1-1 draw with the Highlanders.
He said: “I didn’t fancy hitting one at all. I missed one on my debut against Auchinleck in the Scottish Cup last year. So I wasn’t too confident.
“Before that game I hit a few for the youth team but I’ve not hit one since. I didn’t like the thought of hitting my next one in such an important match for the club.”