The last time Callum Paterson played against Hamilton Accies he was sent off, Hearts’ winning return to the Premiership came to a juddering halt – and the manager landed himself in trouble for suggesting the referee was red card-happy. The rematch at Tynecastle was a far happier affair for the Jambos, even though it was almost as rumbustious.
The home team emerged victorious to reignite chatter of a title challenge which Paterson’s team-mates tried to douse by singing the praises of the all-action young right-back.
“Callum is fantastic – he can be as good as he wants to be,” said the goalkeeper Neil Alexander who, on being told that Gordon Strachan was an interested observer, tipped him for international honours.
“I truly believe he’ll be a big player for Scotland one day,” Alexander added. Having played with Alan Hutton at Rangers, he saw similarities. “The attacking wing-back role is the one that Callum loves and that’s just like Alan. One thing about Callum is he has fantastic spring. He doesn’t get beaten in the air very often and that maybe puts him ahead of Alan. I’d definitely stick him in the Scotland squad and get him used to the environment and how the national side play.
“He’s a fantastic pro and has every attribute to be a top, top player. He’s been outstanding for two seasons, has captained the club, played over 100 games and for a right-back to have his goals record is incredible.
“For him it’s all about development. The future looks good if he can keep his feet on the ground and progress.”
Any more progress, though, and Alexander knows that Paterson’s fan club will expand beyond the Gorgie changing-room. “There will definitely be clubs watching him and he won’t be alone because we have a lot of good players here.”
He mentioned Sam Nicholson and Osman Sow, the latter having giving fair warning of his talent when they were at Crystal Palace together.
“I spoke to the manager about Oz when we were in for him and couldn’t recommend him highly enough. I knew he’d do well in Scotland and it’s turned out that way – so much so that it’ll be tough to keep him. We’ve got a lot of players here who can go on to have fantastic careers elsewhere but from a selfish point of view I hope we can hold on to them for a wee bit longer.”
Hearts won this game with two first-half goals, the first a thumping strike from Prince Buaben followed up by an easy finish from Arnaud Djoum after Sow had been smart and unselfish enough to see that the Cameroonian was better-placed to score.
Accies’ Ziggy Gordon admitted that “a bit of quality” had won the points for Hearts. “We maybe don’t have the luxury of those three or four players who can just go and put the ball in the goal really easily. We need to be at the top of our game and to be fair the boys worked tirelessly. Until their first goal – a great strike – I thought we were going to be the team to score first. This just wasn’t our day.”
Referee Bobby Madden had to brandish his yellow card seven times; thankfully the red stayed in his pocket. Gordon added: “This was my first time at Tynecastle. I was told it would be a nervy game, everyone a bit on edge, and how we’d have to get the first tackle in – but I think the boys took that literally! Hearts did too but I love that kind of contest, it’s what I’m all about.”