THE last time Michael Ngoo was at Easter Road he was making his Hearts debut and scoring in their League Cup semi-final victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Neither the occasion nor the opposition could be sniffed at but, when the 20-year-old on loan from Liverpool returns to Leith this afternoon, the volume and intensity will be cranked up even further.
Ngoo knows what will be demanded of him in his first Edinburgh derby. It was clips of past capital head-to-heads which helped convince him to have a shot at life in the Scottish Premier League.
“The lads have mentioned the derby to me and even before I joined, I was looking at the derbies on YouTube and they just looked epic and I thought: ‘I’m going to enjoy playing in one of those.’
“The last time I was at Easter Road we had good memories on that pitch. It was difficult not knowing the boys. But the opponents didn’t know how I played either so it gave me a bit of an advantage. I felt delighted after that game. Hopefully, the same thing can occur on Sunday. I am so looking forward to it. It’s going to be a big game for me personally and for my career.”
After scoring in three of his first four games for Hearts, Ngoo has gone five games without a goal. But, although he didn’t get on the scoresheet in the 2-0 midweek win over St Johnstone, he was a key contributor.
Interim manager Gary Locke has opted to go with as much experience as his squad can muster and has been playing John Sutton up front alongside Ngoo.
“It’s great to have John up there alongside me,” said Ngoo. “I gave him an assist to score. Sometimes when you are alone, you have to cut it back for late runners to come in and score but there’s not always late runners there so you tend to find yourself shooting from tight angles.
“But I’m happy that John was there, I gave him a goal and we had a similar one earlier in the game and it shows we’ve been working hard. We played last weekend together and then in midweek and I can see a partnership developing. It showed against St Johnstone.”
The duo had a huge impact on that game, and not only by combining for the opening goal. The way they pressed the game high up, and committed defenders, will have left several of the Saints rearguard relieved to get back on the bus north.
Ngoo’s hope is that they can dominate the men tasked with marking them again today.
“We needed a good result and performance and got that [on Tuesday] and now we feel we’re on track for the two big games coming up – probably the biggest two games of the season. I’m excited. I can’t wait for the build-up to the Cup final [on 17 March] too. But we’re going to take them step by step and, hopefully, get the result on Sunday first of all. Then we can hopefully get a win at Hampden as well.”