Jack Hamilton returned to keep goal for Hearts for the first time in nine months in Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at Kilmarnock, but he intends to make the jersey his own next season.
Manager Craig Levein expects first-choice Jon McLaughlin to leave Tynecastle this summer and Hamilton took advantage of his absence at Rugby Park to turn in a man- of-the-match display.
It served as a timely reminder of the former Scotland Under-21 star’s qualities. Hamilton, pictured, made his Hearts debut in 2014 but has made only 59 appearances for the senior side since. Goalkeepers tend to mature later and last longer, of course, and the 24-year-old claims that he is now ready to be an automatic selection.
“It was disappointing to lose the game, but it was brilliant for me just to get back on the field again and to chip in with a couple of saves was good because that’s what I wanted to do,” he said.
“Jon has come in and done really well, which has been tough for me. It’s been about taking a step back, watching him and seeing what I can learn from him to try and make myself better. Having done that, hopefully, I can kick on in the future now. I was happy with my performance at Rugby Park.
“If Jon does move on – and I don’t know what he intends to do – then I definitely feel ready to come in and play every week and I would love to do that. Obviously, it’s been difficult for me, but Jon has been in fantastic form and only one goalie can play.”
Hamilton may be young for a goalkeeper but, with Levein fielding eight players aged 16 to 19 on Sunday, he felt positively ancient. “It was great to see the young guys out there against Kilmarnock,” he said. “I’ve seen how good they are at training and it’s excellent that they’ve been rewarded with that chance. They’ve come in and they’ve done really well.
“Cammy Logan, the right-back, isn’t even full-time, so it was a massive thing for him to step into that game. I thought he handled himself well and Connor Smith, who came on just before half-time, didn’t look out of place either.
“Chris Hamilton, making his debut, is someone I’ve played alongside for the under-20s and he’s going to be a top, top player. He has a big future ahead of him. It was a huge learning curve for him going up against Kris Boyd, but he’s level-headed and just wants to learn.
“At Hearts, he has Christophe Berra, Aaron Hughes and John Souttar to bring him along and you won’t find three better people to learn from when it comes to playing in that position. He’s not the biggest, but he reads the game really well and he gets himself into positions which make up for his lack of height.”