BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has urged Jack Hamilton to bide his time at Tynecastle, insisting the gifted goalkeeper could be rewarded with more than a decade as the club’s number one.
The 22-year-old already established himself as the first-choice stopper for Scotland’s under-21 side and cut a composed figure for the Jambos when he deputised for Neil Alexander for five matches – including an Edinburgh derby – last term.
However, Hamilton has only made two appearances this season, against Arbroath and Forfar in the League Cup, and has grown increasingly frustrated by his lack of first-team opportunities with the capital club.
Following a man of the match display in Scotland’s 2-0 defeat against France’s under-21 side last Thursday, Hamilton said: “I need football to improve, I need game time to take myself to the next level.”
However, Neilson, while understanding of the player’s grievances, is adamant patience will pay off for the youngster.
He said: “If had numerous conversations with Jack and I know he is desperate to play. He is a great kid and a great goalkeeper, but it is just the nature of playing in that position that you need to bide your time.
“If, and when, he does get into the first team then he will be Hearts’ goalkeeper for the next 10 years – and someone will be waiting behind him!
“That’s just the way it is. It’s not like an outfield position where – for example – I could play a young centre-back at left-back or right-back. There is only one position and he needs to wait for it.
“I think he is potentially the natural successor to Neil [Alexander]. He is a good character and a good goalkeeper.”
However, the Hearts boss has not ruled out farming Hamilton out on loan next term to gain first-team experience, despite the player having already spent periods with East Fife, Stenhousemuir, East Stirlingshire and Forfar.
Neilson, who takes his side to face Inverness on Tuesday night, added: “He knows the club but he needs to get some game time – we’ll see how the season progresses and if there’s an opportunity to put him in then we’ll look to do that.
“At this moment in time we can’t do anything with regards to loaning him out – we only have Neil and Jack. Come the summer, it’s something we might look at.”