CALLUM Paterson went diving in a tank of sharks yesterday but said that, when it came to a sense of intimidation, other teams will find walking out at Tynecastle this term even scarier.
Delighted that pre-season sales of season tickets have surpassed 13,000, the full-back believes the partisan crowd can be a massive advantage to the newly-promoted Gorgie side and help to unsettle their Premiership visitors.
“Even if we’d won the league by one point, we’d be pushing for top six and for Europe”Callum Paterson
“Last year, we had sell-outs for every game and it was just a massive boost for the players. The fans were right behind us and wanted to see us play good football. Hopefully, we can keep repaying them for all their sacrifices. They watched us go down a couple of years ago and had a terrible season with everything. But we repaid them by coming back this season so hopefully we can move that on.”
Hearts stadium has always been recognised as one of the most atmospheric in the country, and if the team can play their part with the kind of performances required to catapult them up the standings and surpass the conservative targets usually set by promoted sides, near capacity crowds are more than capable of playing their part in turning the home venue into a fortress.
“It could be,” said Paterson, who was taking part in a shark dive at Deep Sea World to promote the family visitor attraction coming on board as an official supporter of Heart of Midlothian FC’s Junior Jambos programme.
“You go to Celtic Park sometimes on a Tuesday night and it has 20,000 people in it. It is a massive stadium and intimidating in itself, but it is not great when you see it as empty as it can be.
“When you play at Tynecastle, it is not a massive venue, but it is always packed to the rafters with fans cheering the team on. It is different and players in other teams will be a bit scared of it.”
The return to the top flight has filled the Hearts players with no such fears. They endured a torrid time in their last season in the Premiership but circumstances and personnel have changed since then and they have been buoyed by the success of last season, when they romped to the Championship title, leaving both Rangers and Hibs in their wake.
Having revelled in that achievement, they are now refocused and as they return for pre-season training tomorrow, the versatile player says he and his team-mates are relishing the challenge of the new campaign.
“It’s different [than the last top flight experience]. I had loads of friends in the last team who were released and moved, so I don’t have a bad word to say about that team. But it is different now. We have some younger talent and also some older, wiser heads to keep the boys going. Hopefully, we’ll also add a couple of new bodies before the start of the season and get going again.”
He has already wished former colleague James Keatings well in his career switch to city rivals Hibs and says that he also wants ex-captain Danny Wilson to thrive regardless of where he ends up. Reports have linked him with Celtic but it has also been suggested that he may end up at Rangers.
“In Scotland, there are probably a limited number of teams that would represent a step up, but he was linked with Fenerbahce and Galatasaray earlier on and teams all over the globe,” said Paterson. “Maybe it is personal. Maybe something has happened behind closed doors or something could be happening with his family. I am not quite sure. It is about personal decisions for everyone and what works best for themselves.”
Preferring to occupy his mind with his own ambitions, he maintains there is no point in anyone at the club setting low goals for themselves.
“We had a lot of good teams in the Championship last season who would have been safe in the Premiership,” he added.
“But there are different players and different ways of playing. It won’t be about as many massive tackles and as rough as it was in the Championship. It’s totally different, but hopefully we have the players and the coaching staff to help us through it.
“You’ve got to be positive. Even if we had won the league by one point last season, we’d have been pushing for top six and for Europe.
“The way we won the league, the style, is something we can hopefully take forward into the new season. The teams we play and the grounds we play at will be different. But I think we can keep the same mindset as last season and see what happens.”