Hearts give Gavin Reilly a new lease of life

Hearts players, left to right, Jack Hamilton, Gavin Reilly and Callum Paterson at Musselburgh Races yesterday. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Hearts players, left to right, Jack Hamilton, Gavin Reilly and Callum Paterson at Musselburgh Races yesterday. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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AS GAVIN Reilly and his Hearts team-mates enjoyed a pleasant afternoon at Musselburgh races, it is probably for the best that Soufian El Hassnaoui resisted the temptation to hobble along for a flutter.

Given the lack of fortune he has endured during his time in Edinburgh, he would surely have left the track with pockets empty.

The intensity of training is a lot higher than I have been used to

Gavin Reilly

While Callum Paterson, Osman Sow and Sam Nicholson posed for pictures with the SPFL Championship trophy inside the parade ring, news filtered through that their Dutch-Moroccan colleague had succumbed to yet another serious injury.

El Hassnaoui, who was restricted to just ten starts following his arrival from Sparta Rotterdam last summer as he battled groin and ankle complaints, has been diagnosed with knee ligament damage after twisting awkwardly during Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Preston. He is unlikely to kick a ball again in 2015 as his Hearts career continues to be cursed by fitness concerns.

While displaying genuine sympathy for El Hassnaoui’s plight, Reilly is among those who must step up to the plate and fill the void left by the sidelined 25-year-old.

It is a task which evidently does not overawe him, despite the fact he has never played top-flight football before.

“It’s such a shame for Soufian because he had injury problems last season and now he’s got another one,” said the summer arrival from Queen of the South.

“I wish him a speedy recovery, but if I get my chance I’ll hopefully be able to take it. We have a lot of strength in depth throughout the squad, and there are plenty of boys who can come in and do a job.

“I believe I can take my chance if I get it. I can play as a number ten and also as an out-and-out striker scoring goals.

“We’ll just have to wait and see what happens when the season starts, but I’m confident of scoring at Premiership level.

“I don’t want to big myself up too much but I scored against St Johnstone last season and also against Rangers. I want to hit the ground running. There is pressure – but that’s also motivation.”

Reilly admits his switch to Hearts has been a learning curve, on and off the field.

As well as the step-up in quality and intensity from what he was used to at Palmerston Park, the versatile forward is also living away from home for the first time.

“I’ve enjoyed it. Like everyone going into a new job, I was a bit anxious to start,” said Reilly. “But the lads have welcomed me and it’s going really well. The intensity of training is a lot higher than I have been used to but I have settled in well.

“I’m 22 and this is the first time I have been away from home. I have been living with my sister for the last two months but I am moving into a flat of my own soon.

“So I am getting new experiences football-wise and life experiences too.”

With just eight days until Hearts’ competitive season kicks off against Arbroath on League Cup duty, Reilly has great expectations for the coming campaign after seeing the class of his team-mates.

“The team came up from the Championship after doing really well,” he added. “If we can get into the top six, it would be great but, after training with the lads, I don’t think it’s out of the question for us to get one of the European places.”