BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
John Souttar feared his move to Hearts would prove a bridge too far when Storm Henry nearly blew his deadline-day move off course.
But the 19-year-old is now determined to prove his whirlwind switch was the best thing for him after fearing he was growing stale at Dundee United.
The Scotland under-21 cap had been linked with possible moves to Celtic and Rangers, but it was Hearts who firmed up their interest last week when they had a bid accepted for the teenager.
After thinking he could be staying at Tannadice, Souttar was in the cinema when summoned to Edinburgh, a journey made all the more stressful when the wild weather battering Scotland had caused the Forth Road Bridge to be closed.
Thankfully for the teenager, the restrictions were removed to allow him to cross from Fife – but even then he has confessed there was uncertainty the deal would go through right up until two minutes from the midnight deadline.
A relieved Souttar said: “It was crazy. It was so last-minute.
“I came in for training at United and Mixu (Paatelainen) pulled me in. He said: ‘There have been a few bids from Hearts but it’s not happening, the chairman doesn’t want to let you go. Just concentrate on the game at the weekend and get your head on that. You’ll be playing’.
“I went home and went to watch a film, Dirty Grandpa, at the cinema with my pal and my girlfriend. My phone goes in the cinema and it’s basically: ‘Get to Edinburgh – but the bridge is closed’.
“We got to the bridge and it was open. If it was closed I’d probably have struggled to get there on time.
“We got there quite late and Hearts were doing a few deals that day and were trying to get them through. It was pretty hectic.
“About five minutes to 12, I was like: ‘This is taking a while.’ Jordan McGhee was there as well and his move (to Middlesbrough) fell through. I thought it wasn’t going to happen for a minute.
“Then, at two minutes to 12, I got told it went through. I was delighted.
“I had my heart set on going to Hearts so I would’ve been gutted if it hadn’t gone through.
“I felt it was definitely the right time to leave for a fresh challenge. I’d been there since I was eight so I owe a lot to Dundee United.
“But I needed to leave. I don’t like seeing the club where it is just now but I think it was the right time to leave, get a fresh challenge and a fresh start.”
Souttar’s last days at United were marred by the club’s lowly position at the bottom of the league and unrest amongst the supporters enraged by the direction of the team.
Souttar, delighted to have been told Hearts see him as a central defender after being shunted around the side at Tannadice, found himself on the end of some booing.
However, with confusion over whether he would stay – or wanted to stay – beyond January, the youngster believes it is a scenario he simply had to put up with.
The stopper, who is likely to make his debut against Ross County tonight, with Hearts set to be without the injured Alim Ozturk and suspended Blazej Augustyn and Igor Rossi, added: “Fans pay their money so it’s up to them what they say.
“They booed in a few games but I think I’m big enough to take that on the chin. The higher you go, it’s going to happen.
“I don’t have a bad word to say about the fans. A lot of things happened, things got released that weren’t necessarily true. As a player, you don’t really have a voice to back yourself up.
“Fans hear one thing and I can completely understand where they’re coming from.
“Wayne Rooney was getting pelters earlier in the season and you need to deal with it. It comes with the trade now and you have to take it on the chin.
“We’re footballers and we’re where they [fans] want to be. I can see where their frustrations came from. We were bottom of the league so it was completely understandable.
“I think a lot of stuff came out at United which didn’t help anything. I don’t really want to talk about that. I’m delighted to be here and I think the challenge ahead of me is exciting.”