EVERYONE in Leith knows that Swanny’s Bar is a Hibs establishment, but following Danny Swanson’s move to Hearts there were Tynecastle tunes belting out of the speakers yesterday, proving that, as far as his dad is concerned, family loyalties are more important than football allegiances.
Despite the Hibs connections, Swanson said that signing for Hearts was an easy decision and he did not have to get special dispensation from his family before putting pen to paper.
“Not many people know, but my mum’s side of the family are all Hearts fans,” he said. “My grandad, Llario Guerri, was a season-ticket holder for over 30 years so I’d like to think he’ll be looking down proud of me. He was Italian but he came over to Scotland and took to Hearts right away. He took my mum to all the games. My Nana Guerri phoned my dad’s pub [after I signed] on Thursday night and she was very emotional. She was very pleased so I was happy with that.”
If his father, John, is slightly more torn, he is doing well to disguise it. No doubt just happy to have his son and grandson back in Edinburgh after spells at Peterborough and Coventry, he is even planning on heading along to Tynecastle to support his lad.
“My dad is a big Hibby but I went into the pub to say bye to him because he’s going on holiday and he and a few of the punters in the pub had the Hearts songs on the jukebox. I never thought I’d see the day, but I’ve converted him! He’s looking forward to coming along and watching me. He looks after a handicapped guy who he’s had in the house for a few years and he’s into Hearts, so he’s going to bring him along.”
Though there were other teams interested, including St Johnstone, Swanson says “it was a no-brainer” of his choice, citing Craig Levein and Robbie Neilson as defining factors. One the 28-year-old played with at Dundee United, the other he credits with so much of what has been good about his career thus far.
Under Levein, the creative midfielder was given his big break, moving to Tannadice from Berwick Rangers. He won the Scottish Cup, moved to the brink of an international cap and developed enough to earn his move to England.
“The first couple of years in England down at Peterborough were very good,” he said. “I ended up getting relegated but it was a great experience in the Championship in the first season. In my second season we got to the play-off semi-final and won a cup, so I enjoyed it there.
“Coventry was a bit different. I was in and out the team, then I came to St Johnstone. When I went back down to Coventry in the summer I found it difficult to get in the team. I just wanted to play football, so me and my wife decided it was time to go back up the road and get playing again. I’ve landed on my feet.
“I came in on trial basically for Robbie to see how I was and for me to see the place. Once they said they wanted to sign me, it was done there and then. I am confident in my own ability. It was more a case of Robbie seeing how fit I was and how I’d fit in with the boys. The football aspect of it probably wasn’t such a big deal because they know what I can do, but I was a bit nervous on Wednesday when I was about to be told if they wanted me.”
He was wanted and according to his new gaffer he will be involved at some stage in tonight’s league match away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
The beneficiary of one Levein transformation act, Swanson is excited about the revamp of all things Hearts at the moment and delighted to be given the chance to be part of it.
“It doesn’t feel like a newly-promoted club.,” he said. “There’s so much confidence here. The young boys – Walker, Nicholson and King – I’ve been very impressed with. I think we’ve got a real chance to do something.
“The state the club was in before was ridiculous but the best thing that happened is getting Ann [Budge] in and Ann then bringing in Craig. He’s the man that will sort it straight out. He did it at Dundee United and he’ll do it here. I’m positive of that.”
That unswerving belief is reflected back and is the primary reason for Swanson’s success in the professional game. “Of the managers I had down south, Darren Ferguson was excellent, I couldn’t fault him. He made me a better player. Steven Pressley is very similar to Craig. He was always good with me and we had loads of chats, but Craig always stands out for me compared to the rest. He’s always believed in me. I always remember him speaking to me after one of my first games for Dundee United, at Celtic Park.
“I had a bad game and was feeling down, but he took me into his office and told me how good I was and reminded me why he had brought me to United. I’ll never forget how he picked me up that day. It helped me massively and from then on I went into games thinking differently. I owe a massive debt to Craig for the career I’ve had and hopefully I can repay him at Hearts.”