Jamie Walker opens up on Hearts future, contract situation and potential loan move
You won’t find more of a die-hard Hearts fan in the current squad than Jamie Walker.
The 28-year-old came through the ranks at Tynecastle and is now in his second spell at the club. Unfortunately for him, it looks to be entering the final stages of his time in Gorgie.
That was until Saturday and a crucial moment for Walker, and for Hearts. Introduced on 58 minutes to a paltry match against Dundee with the scoreline tied tight at 0-0, the attacking midfielder sparked his team-mates into life with his forward-thinking approach and creativity before scoring the winner 15 minutes from full time, albeit he couldn’t really miss when Aaron McEneff’s deflected effort hit the base of the post and rolled into his path.
This was only Walker’s third appearance in the league this term for the Hearts and his first since September 18. He has had a lot of time to ponder his future while kicking his heels on the sidelines and as he enters the final six months of his contract, loan moves to Livingston and St Johnstone have been mooted. Time appeared to be up for Walker. Maybe not so now.
“I enjoyed that," Walker smiled as the fog descended on Dens Park post-match. “It’s always nice to come off the bench and play your part. It’s been a long time since I had some minutes on the pitch but I was delighted to get the three points for the team.
“I said the same last year when I came off the bench and scored that I always believe in my own ability. When I get in front of goal I always feel confident that I’m going to score. Thankfully I’ve done that today and we’ve got the three points.”
Walker has spoken to Robbie Neilson about his lack of game-time. His manager has been honest with him, explaining that it is tough to change a winning team. Hearts are five points clear in third place in the cinch Premiership and on course for European football. However, Walker has something many of his peers don’t have: imagination. Hearts struggled to break Dundee down and it was only when he appeared did they take control of the match.
"I’ve spoken to him quite a lot,” Walker said of Neilson. “We’ve got a good relationship. It’s always hard when you’re not playing but the boys have been doing well. We’re flying near the top of the league which means you just have to wait for your opportunity. I got that on Saturday and hopefully that’s placed a thought in the gaffer’s mind.
“I’m getting a bit older now. I’m not as young as I used to be and I want to play football. But if I’m going to get more opportunities like this then I’d be delighted to stay here.”
Have there been any discussions about a new contract? “Not really,” Walker responded. “It’s up in the summer so it’s up to me to keep my head down, keep working, try to get opportunities and scoring goals.”
Opportunities have been difficult. There are no bounce games. Keeping match-fit is a challenge. “I’ve not had reserve matches or anything like that,” said Walker. “I’ve been doing a lot of running and training. I felt better than I thought I would when I came on as I hadn’t played in a long time. I’ll keep working away in the gym and on the training pitch and when I get opportunities I have to hope I can take them. When you’re not playing it’s your job to make sure you keep your fitness up. You have to stay professional and look after yourself so that when opportunities do come up you’re ready.”
He is certainly popular with the Hearts fans, who warmly greeted him when he was warming up before cheering him loudly at full time.
“The reaction from the fans was fantastic,” Walker added. “Everyone knows I’m a Hearts supporter so to send them away happy is always nice.”
The win at Dundee kept up Hearts’ challenge for a top-four spot. They lead fourth-placed Motherwell by five points and are eight clear of Dundee United in fifth. This was the sort of win you need to grind out when chasing down European spots.
“It’s massive,” Walker said of the victory. “It’s not just coming off the bench and maybe scoring the second or third in a comfortable win. It was to get the win so that was huge. Dundee United lost to Rangers so that opens up an eight-point gap over them, although Motherwell are doing well too in fourth. We have to just keep winning football matches and see where it takes us.”