BY IAIN COLLIN – Capital City Press
The gulf in class could hardly be wider but Callum Paterson hopes facing the millionaires of Everton will prove the perfect preparation for Hearts ahead of Thursday’s League Cup tie against lowly Arbroath.
Paterson stunned the English Premier League stars with a ninth-minute opener in Sunday’s friendly at Tynecastle but the home side were defeated 3-1 and comprehensively outplayed in the end thanks to a hat-trick from Belgium internationalist Romelu Lukaku.
The £28 million striker was just one of a host of big names on show, with the likes of Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Kevin Mirallas, Gareth Barry, Tim Howard and Chelsea signing target John Stones all in the Toffees’ starting line-up and Steven Naismith, Ross Barkley and Tom Cleverley springing off the bench.
As a right-back, Paterson was particularly thrilled to get a pitch-level insight into the skills of Republic of Ireland defender Seamus Coleman.
And the 20-year-old insists the experience was an inspirational one as Robbie Neilson’s Championship winners ready themselves for this week’s competitive kick-off.
Paterson said: “You thrive playing against players like that. It spurs you on and shows you what you have to do.
“Seamus Coleman was playing right-back for them and I was watching the way he plays. It was unbelievable and hopefully I can emulate him in the future.
“You can get a wee bit star-struck at times but you’ve obviously got to focus on the game and play the way you play.
“It was tough out there. You can see the difference, they’re seasoned internationals who have played hundreds of games for their clubs.
“There was a massive difference but it was also a good indicator for where we stand and hopefully we can go and push on from it now.
“They’re so much bigger and stronger but it can only help us improve as a team and boost our confidence.
“It was a good experience – but we’re looking to face easier opposition in our next game.”
After the visit of Arbroath, Hearts will unfurl their title flag on Sunday at home to St Johnstone.
Although they are currently hit with a raft of injury problems, Paterson is hopeful the Tynecastle side will be able to kick-off the league season with a bang and set the tone for the campaign, just as they did 12 months ago in defeating Rangers at Ibrox.
Setting high targets, the defender added: “Top-four has got to be aim. Anything below top-six wouldn’t be a success. It has to be our aim after the way we applied ourselves last year.
“Hopefully we can get off to a good start against St Johnstone. The enthusiasm and excitement of winning the Championship last year will hopefully carry onto this year.”