BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
If Hearts are typical of the rest of Scotland then the country’s youngsters crave a move to the English Premier League rather than an international career, according to Jack Ross.
Ross recently left his role as Hearts under-20s coach but spent 15 months working with some of the best up-and-coming talents in the country at Tynecastle.
The Jambos have reared the likes of Callum Paterson, Jamie Walker, Sam Nicholson, Billy King and Jordan McGhee into first-team players and under-21 caps in recent years and pride themselves on their youth development.
Head coach Robbie Neilson has spoken of his expectation that clubs could make bids for some of his homegrown talent – and imports – during the January transfer window following recent success.
And, after holding discussions with his young charges during his spell with the youths in Gorgie, Ross knows it is the prospect of future moves to England that dominate the ambitions of the kids at Hearts.
With the debate over the future of the Scottish game continuing, Ross said: “I worked with the under-20s squad at Hearts, and in terms of their personalities and their character and attitude they were terrific.
“But we would chat to them about aspects of the game and one time we asked them about their future ambitions, and every one of them said they wanted to play in the Premiership in England.
“That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that, they had that goal.
“But I was laughing because, genuinely, my ambition when I was a full-time apprentice at Dundee was to play for my country.
“I know that sounds idealistic, but that genuinely was my ambition.
“That wasn’t their first ambition, to play for Scotland. It was ‘I want to play in the Premiership in England’.”
Ross added to the BBC: “Perhaps that’s an indication of how the lack of participation of the national team in major tournaments has maybe affected young players as they progress through the ranks.”
Meanwhile, Neilson has revealed he and his staff have been busy identifying possible new recruits if Hearts opt to sell any players in the next two transfer windows.
The Tynecastle outfit do not have to seek transfer income but Neilson wants to be in a position to move quickly should he lose any of his squad members.
He said: “You need to have an idea of what positions are going to be targeted when other clubs come in to try and take your players.
“That’s why we go out and target players so that, if somebody goes, we have a list of two or three guys we could go after quickly. It’s important to plan ahead like that.
“The January window and the summer window next year are the ones when we think there might be offers.”