Any initial misgivings Hearts fans may have had over the signing of Cameron Devlin have seemingly evaporated, quickly replaced by a newfound sense of excitement and anticipation.
There’s a gentle buzz building around the arrival of the diminutive defensive midfielder, and Jambos lucky enough to have secured a ticket for this weekends hotly anticipated Edinburgh derby could be set to get their first glimpse of their new midfield man.
To get an understanding of what awaits Devlin, Kick360 caught up with someone who knows a thing or two about playing for Hearts in the very biggest of games; Socceroos defender Ryan McGowan.
The Adelaide native traded South Australia for Scotland as a teenager, emerging through the club’s academy system before cementing his place as a Hearts icon during a six year spell with the Gorgie outfit.
“I absolutely loved [my time at Hearts]” reflects the former A-League centre half.
“Like I’ve said numerous times, it was the club that I have the most affiliation with.
“They gave me an opportunity to be a professional when no-one else would. It’s where I did most of my football growing up as a 17 year old to when I left as an internationalist. I’ve really fond memories.
“I was successful there and have really, really great memories of lifting the Scottish Cup, scoring against Hibs at Easter Road, playing against Liverpool, playing against Tottenham, loads of really positive memories that I’ve taken from that.
It was a great time for me personally in my career and one I look back on fondly.”
McGowan was certainly not one to shy away from the pressure of derby day, quite the opposite. He thrived in that environment, and possessed an excellent record over Hearts’ cross city rivals, scoring his first goal for the club at Easter Road and defeating them in a major cup final.
Speaking from his new home in Kuwait, he tried to sum up the atmosphere.
“Oh’ it’s just fantastic. It’s one of those games you really have to go to and, if you’re lucky enough to get a ticket, experience for yourself. It’s fast paced, both sets of clubs strongly dislike/hate each other but at the same time they don’t overstep the mark. They’re both two great stadiums to play football in and go and watch football. Tynecastle with its new main stand is excellent.
“It’s a really great spectacle. There’s a good number of away fans behind one set of goals. It’s just one when the fixture list comes out, both sets of supporters look for when they are.”
There’s some added excitement heading in to Sunday’s fixture.
“This one is probably going to be one of the biggest for a few years because fans are allowed back in and both are sitting on top of the league having made excellent starts to the season. Both teams will be full of confidence going in to the game knowing that they can win, and in derbies, that’s often not the case.”
Having such an in-depth knowledge of what it takes to make it at a historic club like Heart of Midlothian, it’s little wonder Devlin reached out to McGowan before putting pen to paper.
“He was so excited to be linked or to have the possibility of joining them. I didn’t have to sell it to him, I was just saying it was a great platform for him to go and play his football. At the age he is and his style of play, it really suits not only Scottish football but also Hearts and he’s coming in at a good time. You could say when I joined Hearts it was in totally different circumstances.
“He was just so excited to get over there and experience it… and I’m so excited and happy for him that he’s got that opportunity.”
“I think he’ll adapt well. I’ve been really impressed with how Hearts have targeted the type of player that they need, and they’ve targeted Cammy. They’ll know exactly what he’ll bring to the table and they wouldn’t have signed him if they didn’t think he would do well.
“I think he’s done really well in the A-League and he’s exactly the type of player Hearts need and one that the fans will definitely take to, purely because of the style of play. He’s a good player to watch, he’s 110%, he’s got desire and he’s good on the ball and has all the attributes to make it not only at Hearts but really kick on from there.”
Just a few weeks on from his arrival in Europe, Devlin could be set to pull on that iconic Maroon jersey for the first time in one of the biggest games in the club’s domestic calendar.
Ahead of the game, Kick360 offered the experienced international the opportunity to share a few sage words of advice for his fellow countryman.
“Just enjoy it and that make sure he takes advantage of it, whether he starts or comes on.
“These are the games that fans remember for years and years and years. It’s coming up to 10 years since I played for Hearts but I still get Twitter messages and pictures and Instagram messages all the time of moments in Hearts games, especially the derbies.
“If he goes on and plays well, people will remember that.
“I think that’s what you want as a professional is to play in games where you have the chance to be remembered for a long time and in the world of sport, there aren’t that many games or derbies that you’re lucky enough to be involved in.
“If he’s involved on Sunday, I hope he grasps it with both hands, performs well and be remembered for making his debut in an Edinburgh derby and being on the winning side.”