Hearts striker Conor Sammon can hardly wait for the new season to get under way but as a wise old head in a squad peppered with bright young things, he has urged his new colleagues to show more patience when it comes to plotting their future.
A number of the squad have made it on to the radar of clubs down south and on the continent but Sammon said they should carefully weigh up the timing of any move and what they would be giving up at Hearts before being wooed by any other offers that may materialise.
“I think that with my experience, from moving to England and picking up pointers, I can help the younger lads here. They are all a similar age to what I was when I left Kilmarnock. I was ambitious, I wanted to play at the highest level I could and be the best player I could be. Whether that was by doing extra or absorbing info from the older players.
“The one thing I would say to anyone is that you have to make sure it’s the right time to move on if that’s what you’re going to do. I had a chance to go to Scunthorpe when I was at Kilmarnock and went down there but felt it wasn’t the right move. I was happy enough in myself and confident enough to know I could come back because I was growing and I was learning where I was.
“I didn’t feel I had to jump at it because it was there in front of me and looking back I’m pleased about that. You have to make sure it’s right in every area because the grass isn’t always greener. Especially when you are at a club like Hearts, where it’s a big club with great facilities, a great fan base and a good stadium. So there are so many things going for you here.”
A shot at the English Premier League, with Wigan Athletic, was the eventual reward for his patience, before a spell at Derby County was punctuated with loan periods at Ipswich Town, Rotherham United and Sheffield United. But Hearts offered him more.
One of the biggest enticements at the moment is the opportunity to play in Europe, with the first qualifier, against Estonian side FC Infornet, at Tynecastle, on Thursday. That, along with Hearts’ showings on the home front in the past couple of seasons, and the stability a three-year deal affords him and his family, had a major role to play in the Irish striker moving back to Scotland.
“It’s a really nice thing to be a part of. Obviously it will be a tough sort of challenge – the type you look for as a player.
“The league is going to be tough this season, a lot of good players and teams, we’re going to be pushed. We have to make sure we’re at a high level if we want to be successful. And I’ve no doubt that playing in Europe as well will be tough. We’re under no illusions, we’re going to need to be right on it if we want to keep progressing through the qualifying.
“Before I came here I spoke to the manager and you could get a vibe about how demanding a manager he is and what he expects from his players and I have no problem with that. I’m a player who enjoys getting stuck in, enjoys the roll up your sleeves type thing and really working as part of a team.
“Strikers can get labelled as, let’s say, lazy or not interested in doing the other side of the game. I’ve always been coached and brought up to be the total opposite of that and to be the first line of defence. That’s something I’ll be looking to bring Hearts, to help some of my team-mates as well and to keep pushing each other. The intensity, it’s been really good. I love that sort of challenge of going into training every day knowing you are going to be pushed hard.”
That attitude provided a return of 18 goals in 27 games for Kilmarnock at the beginning of the 2010-11 season, provoking that move to Wigan, and Sammon still considers it one of the best spells of his career.
“My most successful period was in my last season at Kilmarnock under Mixu Paatelainen. He came in and really transformed the way we were playing, he got us passing out from the back and gave us loads of confidence..”
Sammon is aware of what his strengths are as a player and feels they can be deployed to full effect at Hearts. “I’m a strong, powerful runner who enjoys playing on the last man. I want to create space for my team-mates so it’s exciting coming to a new team, trying to bring what I’ve got to the side and create an understanding with the other players. That has already been happening in the first week I’ve been here and will get stronger when we start playing games and they are coming thick and fast.”
His first taste of European football cannot come quickly enough, though. In that regard, he has shown more than enough patience.