Darren Barr has no fears over young keeper Jack Hamilton’s ability

THE prospect of Hearts having to thrust 18-year-old Jack Hamilton into a senior debut may have evaporated with the short-term signing of Peter Enckleman, but Hearts defender Darren Barr today extolled Hamilton’s credentials and stressed there would have been no need for panic had the kid keeper been called upon.

Mark Ridgers’ knee injury initially left only Hamilton as cover for first-choice goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald, a situation further complicated by the fact MacDonald’s partner is due to give birth any day. Hearts moved to bring in Enckleman to add experience to the position and avoid Hamilton having to make an unscheduled debut.

Hamilton, though, has impressed the established Hearts players during training. “He’s a young boy but he’s a big boy; he’s a good prospect for the future and I would imagine he will do well,” said Barr. “I don’t see why he couldn’t face Liverpool and do well. We all feel sorry for Mark because it’s a major blow. He’s a great character with a good bit of banter. We are all gutted for the boy.”

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The challenge for Barr and his colleagues is not to be consumed by thoughts of Liverpool just yet. This afternoon’s SPL meeting with Inverness at Tynecastle takes precedent and offers a chance for redemption after a disappointing performance in last week’s Edinburgh derby.

“We just need to focus on Inverness,” continued Barr. “We didn’t get beaten at Hibs but we didn’t play the way we can; we know we need to concentrate against Inverness. We know Liverpool is coming up next Thursday and that will take care of itself so we will need to see what happens.

“It felt like a defeat (at Easter Road) because we never performed. It wasn’t good enough and I’m talking about everyone, the full squad. We need to put that right, especially after a good start against St Johnstone. There were expectations there but we have to deal with them.”

Facing Andrew Shinnie pales in comparison to the task of shackling the living Liverpool legend that is Steven Gerrard on Thursday night. It is quite a contrast and one Barr is keen to savour, but he refuses to become distracted from this afternoon’s task. “Yes I’ve thought about that fact I may be up against Gerrard but I can’t be caught up too much in that. It’s something I will relish,” he said. “You always want to play against the best players in the world.

“I can’t look any further than Inverness because we want to put it right after the Hibs draw. After that we can focus on Liverpool and put the telly on and watch them on Sky Sports. It’s going to take care of itself.”

Barr is enjoying a bit of continuity at Hearts after taking time to establish himself in the first team. The latter part of last season saw him able to call the defensive midfield role his own. The position isn’t his natural one – he is a centre-back to trade – but performing as a “spoiler” is well within his capabilities.

“I don’t know if I’ve 
reinvented myself as a central midfielder. I’ll do it to the best of my ability. I’m maybe not the most conventional midfielder at times but I will always try to do a job. I played in defensive midfield when I was a young player. Do I prefer that position? I enjoy the fact that I’m playing in the first team and I will never take it for granted.”