GROWING up in the Netherlands, Kenny Anderson fulfilled a family ambition when he signed for RKC Waalwijk, the club his maternal grandfather supported.
By signing for Hearts he has now kept the other side of his family happy – his other grandfather, Jim Anderson, was a supporter of the Tynecastle club.
A week away from his 23rd birthday, the half-Dutch, half-Scottish midfielder knows he may just have made the defining move of his career – one that could in time lead to a transfer to England and possibly heighten his chances of adding full national honours to the schoolboy caps he won.
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For the time being, however, Anderson is concentrating solely on forcing his way into a Hearts team who will today bid to extend their lead at the top of the Championship to 19 points by beating Livingston.
“When I was younger, I always said I wanted to become a professional footballer,” Anderson said yesterday. “It was always Holland and Scotland because that was my background. I managed to play in Holland, then Hearts were interested in me. This is a massive step coming from the club where I was. Hopefully, I can show myself in Scotland.
“My dad was born and raised in Dundee and was a Dundee United supporter. He told me a lot about Scottish football. A funny thing is my Grandad Jim was a Hearts supporter, so my uncle was very proud – he didn’t choose to go to the Dundee United side.
“I never met my grandad, though, because he’d already passed away. After I signed my Hearts contract, that’s when my uncle told me that my grandad has supported them. It was a nice moment. The thing is, my other grandad was an RKC supporter and I’ve played there, so I think this is meant to be.
“I’m staying with my uncle right now. It’s a big step for me to come from Holland to Scotland and my sister also lives at my uncle’s, so we have a little family gathering there. In Holland, they always say I’m the Scottish guy and in Scotland they say I’m a Dutch guy. I think I feel half and half.
“I signed a one-and-a-half-year contract. If that goes well, hopefully they will extend it. I think everybody has ambition so maybe a move to England will be the next step. First I want to show myself at Hearts, that’s the main priority. I’ll take it one step at a time and not look too far ahead.”
While Anderson joined Hearts just as Jason Holt left for Sheffield United, head coach Robbie Neilson sees the new recruit as a different kind of midfielder, not a direct replacement. “Jason’s technically a really good player at keeping the ball and moving it about, but Kenny’s more direct,” Neilson said. “He gives us another option in midfield, more attacking-wise. We’ve got guys that are really good defensively in midfield, and he’s more attack-minded.
“He’s played the majority of the season so far. Then he had his winter break and he’s played the last two games with RKC, so he’s fit and he’s ready to go.
“We’ve known about him for quite a while. We had a chance to get him in the summer when his team got relegated and had some financial problems, but they decided to keep a hold of him, or it would have been a hefty signing fee to take him in. So we waited and then we got the chance in January and managed to get him in. You heard the phrase ‘Kenny Anderson in Holland’, so we knew about him and watched him quite a bit in the summer.”
Although Prince Buaben is suspended, Anderson is likely to start on the bench today against Livingston, who Hearts play again in the league next week. “We’ll take one at a time,” Neilson said when asked if he was looking at the games as a double-header. “We’ll go there and, hopefully, get the three points, and that would be a good confidence boost to take into the home game. The first one is the most important, as ever.
“Their progress has been steady. I watched them on Tuesday against Alloa and they probably deserved to win. Mark Burchill has taken over a difficult situation with the five-point deduction, but they’ve got a chance to get back into it again. I’ve known Mark for a long time and we speak quite a lot. It’s a great opportunity for him and I know Mark will give it 100 per cent.
“He was there as a player then John McGlynn brought him on to the coaching staff. So it wasn’t a big change when John left. I think he’s probably giving them their best chance to stay up.”
Hearts have the chance to stretch their lead because Rangers, for the second week running, are on cup duty.
Those who thought the saga of the Ibrox club had jumped the shark some time ago were proven wrong this week when caretaker manager Kenny McDowall revealed he would be obliged to select his five Newcastle loan signings in every game.
Neilson, however, said that such a situation need not necessarily be disruptive.
“It all depends if the players are good. If they’re good players it boosts morale, because everyone wants good players round about them – if you’re playing beside good players it makes you a better player yourself. That will be the be all and end all.”
Neilson added: “It’s the same here with Kenny coming in.
“If Kenny proves he’s a good player, then it’s been a great signing and the boys take to him. If he doesn’t make it, it’s difficult.
“That’s football. He’s judged from his first touch in training to his first game. If you’re going to add value to the team the boys will accept you.”