JAMIE Hamill made his name as a midfielder with Kilmarnock, and on signing for Hearts this week made the customary remarks about being willing to play anywhere for his new team. Given the other players targeted by Jim Jefferies, however, it appears probable that the 24-year-old's main role will be at right-back, the position to which he adapted with a fair degree of success at Rugby Park last season.
In Craig Thomson, Jason Thomson and Eggert Jonsson, Hearts already have three players on their books more than capable of playing at right-back. But Jonsson is primarily a midfielder, while neither Thomson is yet the finished article as part of the back four: Jason's main strength is as a defender, and Craig is at his best going forward.
At the very least, Hamill will be given the chance to impress in the position, which is only one of the weaknesses Jefferies has addressed as he plans for next season. The signing of Danny Grainger from St Johnstone gives Hearts a left-back capable of deputising for Lee Wallace. The arrival of John Sutton from Motherwell provides the club with another striker in the mould of Kevin Kyle, whose absence through injury from January onwards was such a loss. And the possible signings of central defender Zander Diamond from Aberdeen and midfielder Mehdi Taouil from Kilmarnock will also strengthen Hearts while weakening their rivals.
Hamill was at first reluctant to move to right-back when Mixu Paatelainen suggested it to him last season, but he adapted well, and will back himself to win a fight for the jersey if that is where his new manager wants him to play. "I thought I had a good season at right-back, and I managed to score a few even though there were a few penalties - well, mostly all penalties," he said. "I've really enjoyed playing right-back, but I enjoy playing central midfield as well - I've played there two or three times this season and I thought I did well there as well.
"I'll have to go through pre- season and see what the gaffer thinks. If he says right-back or central midfield I'll go for it. I only spoke to him for ten or 15 minutes on Wednesday and we didn't really discuss football, we were just talking about everything else.
"I've really enjoyed playing right-back, so I'll never say I'll never play right-back. There's a few right-backs here as well, and people who have been playing right-back, so it's going to be a tough ask for myself to come in and just take somebody's place straight away. There's going to be a lot of hard work in pre-season and hopefully I can gel into the team and see what happens from there. It's a fight I'm willing to take."
Hamill's versatility will be an asset to Hearts if the injury list lengthens, but there were times last season when the undesirability of having too many versatile players became apparent.If the former Scotland under-21 cap does settle in at right-back it will not only answer one of last season's niggling questions, it will also release Jonsson to play in his own best position as a defensive central midfielder.