Breaking into the Hearts team as a teenager, the academy graduate was a sensation, quickly earning acclaim and turning in the kind of performances that made it difficult to leave him out of the side.
Like all artists laying down a second album, every novelist attempting their second book, there was excited curiosity about the wiry but talented midfielder’s ability to turn his initial success into something long-term when he returned for a new campaign.
But a succession of injuries have hamstrung his season and left him champing at the bit. Frustrated by the litany of knocks and niggles, he has been tortured by the time of them.
Having made a name for himself last term, Cochrane has learned how bruising the consequences can be. A target now that opponents know what he is capable of, he has paid the price this season but with the help of sport scientists he is bulking up, spending more time in the gym and “eating all the time!”
Sidelined after he was clattered in a tackle pre-season, each comeback has taken him tantalisingly close to a first-team return only for disaster to strike yet again, more often than not in the final reserve game before he was scheduled to break into the first team squad.
“It almost happened again last week because I rolled my ankle in training,” said Cochrane. Thankfully I was okay. It wasn’t anything serious but at the time I thought: ‘Not again.’ Thankfully I got to play. I think it was the day before I found out I was playing [against Hibernian] and I was just delighted to get back in. I haven’t felt that in a while so to feel it again was brilliant.
“I haven’t been very lucky this season. Last year, I was the luckiest guy in the world so I’ve probably deserved this season to even things out. I can’t even remember all the injuries.”
Computer games like Fortnite have proved the refuge of the injured 18-year-old midfielder, offering him an outlet for his frustrations while his coaches and team-mates, as well as his dad, have helped keep things in perspective.
He said: “My dad tells me that I’m still young and that even the reserve games are good for me just now.
“It’s all about getting my match fitness up now and Foxy [coach Liam Fox] has had a word with me a few times because I was getting a bit fed up not playing and Naisy [Steven Naismith] has been good with me as well. I try to stay positive. Sometimes it’s hard but I’m back and all right now.”
The start against Hibs in the final derby of the term took the number of appearances to 30, qualifying him for a switch into the first-team dressing room. It was the ideal fillip, even if it did mean he was the butt of the team’s pranksters. “Tuesday was my first day in there and, when I came in from training, my shoes were tied up to the showers and my boxers were in the sink. As soon as I came in and saw one shoe I thought: ‘That’s me!’ I’m saying John Souttar is the culprit but I’m not sure. But that’s when you know you’re in the first team.
“I’m on a high just now. I feel brilliant. I feel like a first-team player and it’s good to be back. I was expecting the 30 games a lot earlier but with the injuries, I’ve been struggling for game time so to be back in on Sunday was brilliant.”
And the year’s misfortune would all be forgotten if Cochrane can do enough in the final three league games to earn inclusion in the cup final plans, come 25 May.
“Hopefully I can do enough. Everybody is fighting for their place in the final and it’s all about the lead up to it and how well we play. Hopefully I’ll be involved. I just need to get my match fitness up.”