Denis Prychynenko hoping for a German and Gorgie double

Denis Prychynenko. To the uninitiated, and that will include many Hearts supporters, the name hardly trips off the tongue. Not yet. But, if he gets his way, that could be about to change.

Close your eyes and the German youngster sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger crossed with one-time Tynecastle director of football Eduard Malofeev. However, unlike the colourful Malofeev, there are no madcap rants. For Prychynenko, it is all about Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Hearts.

The 20-year-old is the son of a Ukrainian footballer, his father Sergei having turned out in Moscow for CSKA and Lokomotiv before moving to Germany. Apart from a three-year spell spent back in Ukraine from the age of five months, Prychynenko junior, who was born in Potsdam, near Berlin, was brought up in Germany. But, like his dad before him, football proved his ticket to foreign lands.

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Thanks to Anatoly Korobochka, another in a long line of Hearts sport directors, the midfielder was granted a trial in Gorgie and impressed enough to be offered a contract with the club’s under-19s. Having settled into life in Scotland, the transition from youth to first-team in Paulo Sergio’s cash-restricted future is the one Prychynenko is now seeking to make.

“The gaffer told me a few months ago to keep working away and be patient,” he explained. “I have played a few games now and you can see that you will get a chance. It’s always great for young players to have the feeling that you are part of the team.”

Like a number of his young colleagues, Prychynenko was sent out on loan earlier this season to prepare for eventual top-team action. He was trusted to the care of ex-Hearts coach John McGlynn at Raith Rovers and played a handful of games in the heat of the Kirkcaldy club’s battle against relegation to the Second Division.

It was a shock to the system for someone schooled in the technical and more measured style of German football but an experience that, despite the setback of a double hernia that required surgery and ended his loan spell early, served its purpose well.

“When I first came to Hearts two and a half years ago, I was a very different player,” said Prychynenko. “I kept the ball for longer but Darren Murray, my youth coach, taught me to adapt to Scottish football and told me to take one or two touches. The football is much faster and I think I have coped well.

“My style of football is to pass the ball and to play nice football, like Barcelona. I like to play like that. But I went to Raith Rovers on loan and it is quite difficult to play like that in the First Division. It is a fight and you have no time. It showed me the other side of football, the dirty side. It was a great experience and an eye-opener.”

It seemed the hernia had ended Prychynenko’s season prematurely but, instead, he has timed his return to perfection. A Scottish Cup semi-final run-out in the closing stages of Hearts’ dramatic 2-1 victory over Celtic gave him a taste of Hampden that he hopes will be repeated next month. The all-consuming final with rivals Hibs on 19 May promises to be a captivating spectacle and one that Prychynenko is eager to be involved in.

Father Sergei will travel to Glasgow for the encounter and it could be a dream day for the youngster.

And Prychynenko hopes success in the biggest Edinburgh derby of all time can be followed by German joy in the Champions League final that night.

“I support Bayern Munich,” he added. “Wednesday night was a great night for me to see them get to the Champions League final, I was very happy.

“It would be a fantastic ending to the season if Hearts can win the Scottish Cup and Munich can win the Champions League. They are both on the same day, so it would be incredible. But we have to think of the league games first.”