Arvydas Novikovas keen for medal from Hearts stay

BIG changes are imminent in the life of Arvydas Novikovas. After Sunday’s League Cup final, he will look to leave his parents’ home in Edinburgh. He may even find himself moving to another country if Hearts do not renew his contract in the summer.

The biggest change he wants to effect involves his medal haul, which currently stands at zero.

The Lithuanian is nearing the end of his fifth season at Tynecastle with precious little to show for it. Glimpses of his beautiful crossing ability, searing pace and deadly finishing have been all too fleeting if the truth be told. There is a player in there, but like many wingers, he is frustratingly inconsistent.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Tomorrow’s Scottish Communities League Cup final offers the chance for Novikovas to finally make his mark.

It is likely to be his last major match in maroon, with a host of experienced players due to be released from Riccarton this summer.

Novikovas is now 22 but in some ways still resembles a fresh-faced youth academy graduate. His baby face and wispy haircut has earned him the nickname “Justin Bieber” but he openly admits it is time to grow up.

Hence the hankering to live by himself. Mr and Mrs Novikovas moved to Scotland from Lithuania to find work shortly after their son arrived in 2008. Initially they were employed in a Russian shop before undertaking factory jobs to help look after their precocious teenager. Now their services are no longer required as young Novikovas prepares to branch out all on his own.

“My mum and dad came over when I was in my teens,” the player told the Evening News. “My dad moved over first and after that my mum came over because in Lithuania the money is bad and there is no work.

“They came here because it is better. They worked in a Russian shop first but now they are working in a factory.

“It was a big help having them here when I was 16 and 17 but now I’m 22 and I want to live alone. Sometimes it’s good to live separately and be alone. I told them this and they agree.

“So, next season, I’m living alone. I don’t want to have them watching me all the time.” Young Arvy certainly isn’t frightened to voice his views and is equally forthright on his footballing future.

His Hearts contract expires in a matter of weeks and he knows he must consider the prospect of moving on. “If I stay, I would like to play because I’m young,” he continued.

“I would be happy to stay but I like challenges as well. I would like to see somewhere else, for example. I’m not saying back in Lithuania, just somewhere else to play would be a challenge – a new culture, new football and a new language to test myself.

“I have not made any decisions yet. I’m not thinking about it because we have a big game coming up and everyone’s mind is on this final.

“It would be a great day to win the cup final and maybe score as well. It would be great to leave like that. You never know, maybe Hearts are going to offer me a contract and I’m going to stay.

“I don’t know anything about what will happen. There were talks about Lech Poznan but I think it is just nonsense. Nobody has spoken to me from their side so I don’t know where these rumours came from.”

Having been omitted from Hearts’ Scottish Cup final squad last May, and suffered the personal torture such rejection can bring, Novikovas is doubly keen to play some part against St Mirren tomorrow. His attributes would seem ideally suited to the wide open Hampden surface as a player who likes to commit defenders in one-versus-one situations.

“I felt bad last year. You can’t let yourself down too much but I did feel bad,” he said. “You think too much about yourself. ‘What did I do wrong? I’ve played badly and I need to improve’. You are asking yourself questions. ‘Why this? Why that?’ It’s very difficult in that situation. I don’t want that again.

“I was happy for the boys and happy for Paulo Sergio (last season’s manager). I was celebrating with the team and I remember Paulo saying to me ‘you won this cup final as well, you are part of this, don’t let yourself down’. He said I would be playing in the next final, so now the next final is here.

“Hopefully what he said is correct and there will be a big party if we win.

“It was a good experience being around the team last year because I know what to expect. Hopefully I’m going to be on the bench this time at least. I want to start this year, or at least sit on the bench.

“I think I’ve played well this season. You can’t play good all the time because sometimes you have bad days. My target is to play in the first XI tomorrow. Of course I would be happy to come on in the second half but I want to be on the pitch at kick-off.”

Interim manager Gary Locke was due to name his team later today for a match in which there are no clear favourites. Hearts will be grateful in a sense that St Mirren and not Celtic prevailed in January’s League Cup semi-finals, although Novikovas sounded a timely word of caution.

“No-one wants to play against Celtic in a final,” he said. “However, you can’t think badly about St Mirren. They showed they can play football by beating Celtic in the semi-final like we did last year. If you treat them lightly, you are going to be in trouble.”