JAMIE WALKER admits Hearts owe their supporters a repeat of the performance that saw them beat Inverness in the Scottish Communities League Cup semi-finals last month.
The Tynecastle side have struggled to find consistency this season and are stuck in tenth place in the SPL table.
They were booed off by their own supporters at the end of last weekend’s 3-0 home defeat to Kilmarnock after a frustrating display and, with a record of one win in their last seven SPL games, Walker knows they are running out of time to make it into the top six before the split.
The Jambos beat Caley Thistle on penalties following a 1-1 draw at Easter Road four weeks ago to book their place in the final against St Mirren and Walker is keen to put one over on Terry Butcher’s side again when they meet in the league this afternoon.
Walker said: “We got to the League Cup final so, obviously, that went well. But the past couple of weeks haven’t gone so well, so we’re looking forward to this game. We’re due the fans a good performance and hopefully we can get the three points.
“Since we beat Inverness in the semi-final they’ve not really done that great, so hopefully we can get the three points with a good performance.
“When you’re winning, everyone’s happy and you just get on with it. When you’re losing it’s not so happy – people can fall out. You just need to try and keep working hard and stick by your team-mates.”
Walker, 19, admits the Hearts supporters will have to expect some inconsistency from their side over the remaining weeks of the season because of the average age of the current squad.
There are a number of under-21 players in McGlynn’s pool and they have achieved some decent results over the course of the campaign but they have been unable to maintain their form over a sustained period, to the point where they are yet to record back-to-back league wins this season.
Walker believes that, given time, they will come good, and he continued: “You can’t play your best every week. We’ll just try our best every week, and hopefully the fans stick behind us and help us. Hopefully as the season goes on we can get more consistent and get as far up the table as possible.”
The young Hearts star reckons the spirit shown by his team-mates in the gritty shoot-out win over Inverness last month is the perfect blueprint for his side to prosper.
In terms of focus, quality and determination, Walker thinks that game had just about everything Hearts require to turn this season into a success.
They face St Mirren at Hampden next month for the chance to lift the season’s first piece of silverware but the last-four clash with Inverness is one that will stick long in the youngster’s mind. “It’s the biggest highlight of my career so far,” Walker said. “Hopefully at Hampden in a few weeks we can win the cup and that will be even better.
“It was hard, but that day showed the fans what we’ve got. There’s a good team spirit, we won on penalties and got there in the end.”
Walker, who has made 12 league appearances plus one in each cup competition, has nothing but praise for manager John McGlynn and youth-team coach Darren Murray, who he says have both been invaluable to him in what has been a steep learning curve. “The manager and Darren Murray try to help us. They just say ‘Try and be calm and do your best – everyone knows what you can do so just try and do that on the pitch’. The manager’s help has been massive. I was at Raith with him as well – he’s the only manager I’ve worked under.
“He’s helped me so much in the past few months, and last year when I was on loan as well. I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s shown a lot of faith in me, played me a lot and helped me a lot.”
Walker and the rest of his Hearts team-mates said their goodbyes to Andrew Driver this week as the winger prepared to make the move to the USA with MLS side Houston Dynamo.
While Walker is sorry to see Driver go, he is already setting his sights on making the Englishman’s place in the team his own. “I’ve learned a lot from him,” he said. “He’s one of the most experienced players and he’s always there for advice if you need it. If you ask him questions he’s happy to answer them. He’s always been there for me and I’ve looked up to him, so I wish him all the best.”