BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
FORMER Hearts favourite Jimmy Sandison has urged Callum Paterson to sign a new contract at Tynecastle rather than take a high-stakes “gamble” with his future.
The Scotland internationalist saw his hopes of a career-defining January transfer dashed last month when he suffered devastating cruciate knee ligament damage during the Jambos’ 4-0 win over Kilmarnock.
With surgery and a gruelling rehabilitation programme to come, Paterson – who was being tracked by a host of English clubs including Derby County and West Ham United – faces another nine months on the sidelines.
To complicate matters, the 22-year-old’s deal with Hearts expires in June, meaning he is faced with the dilemma of whether to sign a new contract with the capital club and work his way back to fitness, or take a leap of faith that an English club will still snap him up despite his injury woes.
As far as Sandison is concerned, the decision is a no-brainer.
“I think it would make sense to stay here for at least another year and get himself back to where he was rather than take the gamble,” said the 51-year-old, speaking as he promoted Hearts Legends’ charity football match against the Army Legends at Oriam on March 5.
“If it was me I would stay with my club to try and get myself fit again.
“A year isn’t the end of the world for him. This is the worst time in the world to get this injury. I really do feel for him. It is a step back. However, the medical team here will help him come back, I have no doubt about that, and hopefully they will help him get back even stronger.”
Should a club swoop for Paterson in the summer, Hearts will be due £380,000 in compensation and Sandison has his doubts whether any manager – even in the cash-rich world south of the border – would take that punt.
Sandison, drawing a parallel, recalls how current Hearts director of football Craig Levein was plagued by knee complaints, ultimately forcing him to retire from the game at a tearful press conference in 1997 – aged just 30.
“I don’t know if a club would take him with that injury,” said Sandison, who starred for the Jambos between 1983 and 1991. “The big boys had been watching him and there would have been a couple of good offers, but with this injury they will now think: ‘hang on a minute’.
“I don’t think you can hand him a three or four year deal and hope the injury will completely go. I wouldn’t be happy as a manager trying to buy Callum, just hoping he will come back. He might not.
“I hope he will and he probably will, but you just never know. I go back to Craig Levein, who had the same kind of injury. There are all sorts of question marks that might just put big buyers off at the moment.
“If you want to go to a new club you want to be going in there feeling good about yourself, you don’t want to go in and head straight to the treatment table. It would be better for him to get back to his levels here, in a surrounding he is comfortable with, where he is well respected, and then ask the question again next year.
“If he gets himself back up to his levels again and I have no doubt they’ll come back in for him.”
While Paterson is undoubtedly the victim in this tale, it was an untimely injury for every single party involved.
The gifted full-back had his heart set on a move down south, the Jambos were ready to pocket around £1 million and head coach Ian Cathro had already ear-marked potential areas where that windfall could be spent this month.
“Both parties would have been pleased if he had left this month,” continued Sandison. “Hearts would have received a decent amount of money and he would have been able to progress his career – and that’s fine, there’s no point keeping players at a club they don’t want to be at.
“So I really feel bad for him. There is nothing worse than a big injury like that, at that moment in time, where he could have made a few quid and gone on to something.”