CalLum Paterson believes Hearts should be aiming for fourth place in the Premiership at least as they prepare to kick off their competitive season in the coming days.
Before Sunday’s Premiership clash with St Johnstone, Hearts entertain Arbroath in the League Cup on Thursday. Paterson is just grateful neither side will be able to boast players as athletically and technically superior as Everton fielded against Hearts on Sunday, in the English side’s 3-1 win.
Hearts can console themselves with the thought that although they are taking a step up from the Championship, no opposition side in this season’s Premiership will have the abundant talent boasted by Everton.
“Top four has got to be aim,” said Paterson. “Anything below top six wouldn’t be a success. It to be our aim after the way we applied ourselves last year.
“Hopefully, we can get off to a good start against St Johnstone. We’ve got depth and quality in the squad and have added a few players. The enthusiasm and excitement of winning the Championship last year will hopefully carry on to this year.”
Paterson got Hearts up and running against Everton with a good opening goal but conceded his side were second best for the majority of the game against Roberto Martinez’s slick-passing team.
“It was a good experience but we’re looking to face easier opposition in our next game,” said Paterson. “It was tough out there. You can see the difference, they’re seasoned internationals who have played hundreds of games for their clubs. There was a massive difference, but it was also a good indicator for where we stand and hopefully we can go and push on from it now.”
There are perhaps few occasions when Cowdenbeath player-manager Colin Nish will be mentioned in the same breath as Romelu Lukaku, who cost Everton £28 million when he signed from Chelsea. But Paterson made the comparison when describing the physical challenge that faced Hearts on Sunday.
“You can play against big guys body-wise in your career like Colin Nish at Dumbarton and Cowdenbeath,” said the full-back. “Then you play against guys like Romelu Lukaku and it’s a totally different story.
“They’re so much bigger and stronger but it can only help us improve as a team and boost our confidence. Lukaku is only 22, which is only a couple of years older than me. I suppose I’ve got plenty of time to grow in a couple of years!”
Paterson admitted that Hearts suffered from being intimidated by their better-known opponents, most of whom they are more used to seeing on Match of the Day. But he also reckons such first-hand exposure can aid their own development in the future.
“You thrive playing against players like that,” he said. “It spurs you on and shows you what you have to do. Seamus Coleman was playing right-back for them and I was watching the way he plays.
“Hopefully, I can emulate him in the future. You can watch guys like this on the telly better probably rather than when having to worry about concentrating on what you should be doing.
“You can get a wee bit star-struck at times but you’ve got to focus on the game and play the way you play.”
While he might not be so used to seeing them on television, Paterson has had reason to watch Arbroath, Hearts’ opponents on Thursday, in person at their Gayfield ground., which is often wind-buffeted and even in July, the full-back admitted he is happy to have avoided it. “My cousin Michael Travis, who is at Forfar now, used to play with Arbroath so I’ve been to see them a couple of times up at Gayfield,” he said. “They’re going to be strong and hard opposition to break down so hopefully we can do the job. Thankfully this game is at Tynecastle.”