BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Jamie Walker has vowed to repay Robbie Neilson after the Hearts boss handed him a new long-term contract – despite starting just eight games this season.
The 22-year-old put pen to paper on a deal until the summer of 2018 as he eyes a first-team return later this month.
Walker, who has undergone shockwave therapy in a bid to cure his persistent knee complaint, has not made a single appearance for the Jambos since October 28, however he remains a key player for Neilson’s men.
The former Scotland under-21 internationalist was a stand-out during Hearts’ march to the Championship title last term and has bagged 18 goals in 105 appearances since emerging through the Tynecastle academy.
And Walker, who has previously attracted interest from the likes of Real Betis and Birmingham City, insists it was an “easy” decision to continue his career in Gorgie.
He said: “The gaffer has shown faith in me as I’ve been injured for a lot of the season and he could’ve just left it and seen how my injury was.
“Hopefully I can repay him with good performances. It makes sense to commit my future to the club and give something back.
“I’m delighted that I’m staying. It was an easy decision to make.”
On his impending return to action, Walker continued: “I started back running on Tuesday so hopefully next week or the week after I’ll be back fit.
“The gaffer likes to mix it up a bit but whatever formation or team he plays I think I can fit in well. I’m looking forward to getting back playing.”
Walker becomes the third first-team regular to pledge his future to the Tynecastle club, with Igor Rossi and Arnaud Djoum having recently extended their stays in the capital.
And Neilson, who has previously described Walker as the most technically gifted player at Hearts, is adamant the deal makes perfect sense for the club and the player.
The Hearts boss said: “It works well for both parties. Jamie is a big prospect at the club, has played a lot of games and there has been interest in him over the years.
“To get him tied up gives us security but it also gives Jamie security as well, to go and progress and concentrate on his football.
“This season has been a bit stop-start for Jamie. Last season he played very well for us and won us a lot of games. He’s a big part of the team and was at the start of the season.
“He’s had a couple of little niggling injuries recently, which have hindered him, but we expect him to make a full recovery and add value to the team.”
With the likes of Osman Sow, Blazej Augustyn, Miguel Pallardo and Neil Alexander out of contract next summer – so free to talk to clubs in January – Neilson admits there is plenty more work to be done.
He told Hearts’ official website: “We’ve got a few more guys too who we’d like to get signed up as we think that they deserve it and they’ve done well this season.”