AFTER signing a new three-year contract with Hearts, teenage midfielder Denis Prychynenko today targeted a first-team place and said he is encouraged by the number of young players emerging from the Riccarton youth academy.
The 19-year-old has committed himself to Hearts until 2014 and believes he is capable of handling the step up from under-19 level to first team.
"It's a big inspiration to see the young guys getting a chance," explained the German-born Ukrainian.
"When I first came to Hearts I saw David Templeton in the first team and I thought I would never get there because he was very good. I feel like I have improved a lot and I feel I can step into the first team."
Jim Jefferies, the Hearts manager, is eager to see how Prychynenko fares this season. Last year the player finished top goalscorer for the club's under-19 side and is hopeful of heading to Italy this weekend for the first-team's pre-season training camp after sustaining a knee injury last month.
"Had he not suffered an injury towards the end of the 19s' season, he would have featured for the first team," he said.
"He was in our plans to start against Dundee United at Tannadice as he has the physical presence to handle that.
"We'll have a look at him and see how he is. We want to see how he does in the pre-season and see if he is knocking on the door of the first team."
Hearts begin the new SPL season against Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday, July 23.
That match will be broadcast live on Sky Sports and as such the kick-off time has been brought forward from 3pm to 12.30pm.