HEARTS have endured some tough lessons away from the pitch over the past few weeks.
However, Jamie Hamill reckons that the current playing squad have an even bigger learning curve ahead of them this season.
Administrators took control of the club almost three weeks ago and cuts forced upon them have left them with a more compact and youthful crop than they would have envisaged.
But, with the club having already made a number of cuts to their budget over the course of the past year, the majority of those kids are already accustomed to being in and around the first team squad.
Hamill believes that factor alone will make the transition into recognised first-team players a much easier one, but says that each and every player in the Tynecastle dressing-room has a lot to learn, including the more experienced heads like himself.
He said: “Obviously a lot of these boys have been in and around the first team for a long time now, they have been part of things and everyone has been trying to gel them in because it’s been well known for a long time that they were going to be used more and more.
“They’ve been great so far, although maybe they could do with being a little bit louder in the changing room but I think that comes with age and experience.
“The more games that they play, the easier that part will become. This is a bit of a learning curve for myself and the rest of the boys in the changing room. We have got a young squad and the fitness levels that Dinamo Bucharest showed, that is where we want to be in the next couple of weeks.
“We know that this season is going to be hard for us but hopefully getting game time like they did on Tuesday night will benefit them.”
Hamill admits that the administration process has been a harrowing one and that getting back out on the pitch has been a welcome distraction.
He and his family had to weigh up the options of accepting a sizeable pay cut or risk losing his job altogether - and he also had to watch as friends were made redundant.
“It has been hard. There have been a lot of tough decisions made along the way and a lot of people have lost their jobs in the process. If we hadn’t agreed the pay cut, I don’t think that we would have been in a job either, so you have got to try to look at it that way.
“I’m just concerning myself with clawing back this 15 points that are being deducted at the start of the season. It is a challenge that I am really looking forward to and is one that I would never have shirked away from.
“If we can overcome that deficit then it will definitely be a bigger achievement than any cup win or league win throughout the club’s history.”
Tuesday night’s game against Dinamo Bucharest afforded Hearts supporters a glimpse of how their side might line up this season. The defender conceded that there had been a gulf in fitness levels between the Hearts players and those in Dinamo Bucharest shirts as the Romanians had already played four matches prior to their clash.
It showed on the park as they slotted five home, with Hearts’ only reply coming from Hamill’s second-half penalty.
Hamill said: “It was nice to get on the scoresheet, but we knew that it was going to be tough. I think they had played four games before the game against us. Getting beat 5-1 is never good, but the experience will have been good for them.
“As I said, it is a learning curve for everyone right now and hopefully we can learn from the game and move on to our next game against Dunfermline.”
Hamill was ruled out for 12 months last year after sustaining knee ligament damage during a training session. However, despite the wage cuts and the uncertainty over the future, Hamill insists that he is looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead.
He said: “I am looking forward to the season, considering the injury that kept me out for such a long time last season. I want to have a full season under my belt, crack on and try to help some of the younger boys out as much as I can.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can have a good season. It is good to get back playing again. I played a few games towards the end of last season after my injury so it has been good to get a full pre-season under my belt and get a game in there already. If we can perform well, hopefully we can get a few good results in there too.”
Hamill showed just how much he has been missing competitive football towards the end of Tuesday night’s Bucharest game when he slid in with two tasty challenges within just a couple of minutes of one another which resulted in Gary Locke exchanging angry words with his counterpart in the opposition dugout.
“There were a couple of tackles towards the end - although I think that is more or less what you would expect from me nowadays!” he laughed. “But, seriously, it is good to get back to playing some football now. Everyone is looking forward to the start of the season for real but, for now, it is just good to get some game time under our belts.
“Another week-and-a-half of hard training and this is when we start to enjoy it again, we’ve got the ball back out and get playing again.”
This weekend the Jambos head to Fife for a game against Dunfermline and Hamill hopes that the work they have put in so far, combined with the 90 minutes against Bucharest, will see them increase the tempo.
He added: “I think we will all be sore after that workout but we have got the game against Dunfermline to think about on Saturday. We have got good sports scientists at the club so hopefully by then we will be beginning to feel the benefits of the work that we have put in so far.”