New Hearts keeper Jon McLaughlin returns to Edinburgh roots

Nearly three decades after leaving the city of his birth, it's fair to say new Hearts goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin's journey back to Edinburgh has been a circuitous one.

Hearts keeper Jon McLaughlin promotes the launch of supporter benefit scheme, One in a Million. Picture: SNS

Born into a Hibernian-supporting family, McLaughlin left the Scottish capital for Saudi Arabia before he had even celebrated his first birthday, owing to dad Paul’s work commitments.

A career in professional football did not seem conceivable during his formative years in the Middle East as basketball and hockey were more 
popular.

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Returning to England aged 11, McLaughlin went on to earn a sports science and coaching degree at Leeds University before he landed his first professional contract at Bradford.

An unorthodox route into football was, however, the foundation for a successful career as McLaughlin helped Burton Albion reach the English Championship with back-to-back promotions in his three years with the Brewers.

Aware that he is in danger of provoking the ire of his family by joining Hibs’ fierce city rivals on a one-year contract, McLaughlin is just grateful to be given the chance to return to Edinburgh.

“It’s funny the way things work, small world and all that,” remarked McLaughlin. “You go off in all different directions, yet end up coming back to the place you were born.

“It’s nice because it’s something I did want to do in my career, at some stage, although I was thinking it might happen towards the end.”

Any allegiance McLaughlin
had towards Hibs growing up was influenced by his family, the 29-year-old confessing that he has not stepped inside Easter Road.

The shot-stopper still expects to be on the end of light-hearted flak from his relatives for defecting to the maroon side of the city.

“We left Edinburgh when I was not even a year old. I was born here but we very quickly moved to the Middle East for my dad’s work. We lived there until I was about 11, then moved back to England.

“The whole family, parents, uncles, aunties, the lot, are all from Edinburgh. I’ve still got a lot of family who live here. The majority are from the Hibs side, I’ve got to say.

“Growing up, with the parents and uncles who were Hibs fans, that was who I would look out for.

“But having never lived here, having never been given the opportunity to go and support any Scottish side, I’m certainly less of a diehard Hibee.

“My parents were made up for me [joining Hearts].

“But I wasn’t getting too many phone calls back from some of the uncles. They’re a bit more diehard.”

As fate would have it, McLaughlin played his first game for Hearts in last week’s Under-20s 4-1 victory over Hibs. He joked: “It was nice of them to chuck me into that one straight away – just to test me and make sure there was no old affiliation still there.

“I showed that I’d burned 
all the bridges, I suppose.”

Reflecting on his unconventional path into football, McLaughlin added: “It’s quite a good upbringing in Saudi Arabia because you get a taste of everything.

“It’s something I’ve always been really glad about, that I wasn’t just drilled down one route my whole life. I’ve been able to do everything. I’ve had a full school education, gone to university as well.

“I was about to turn 21 when I signed a professional contract at Bradford. I finished the degree, which was brilliant.

“I now get the added bonus of still being a professional 
footballer so I’ve been very lucky.”

McLaughlin has certainly not arrived at Hearts to sit in the bench.

Jack Hamilton has been in possession of th gloves but McLaughlin is hoping to be given the nod for Saturday’s clash against Premiership leaders Aberdeen at BT 
Murrayfield.

He added: “We have to work so closely together but only one person can wear the shirt.

“That’s the difficulty and challenge ahead of myself now. In the last five or six years I’ve been the number one 
playing a lot of football every season and that’s my intention again but it’s certainly not 
given that the shirt is going to be yours. You have to come in and fight to prove you’re the best man for the job, that’s the task for me.”

l Jon McLaughlin helped Hearts launch their new One in a Million supporter benefit scheme at Divino Enoteca restaurant in Edinburgh. Funds raised will go to the Tynecastle Redevelopment Fund.