BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTS starlet Jamie Brandon admits he has been taken aback by his own rise to the Tynecastle top team.
The former Rangers kid joined the Jambos last summer and, after impressing for the development squad, made his senior debut against Celtic on the final day of the Premiership season.
The 19-year-old turned in a combative showing against the likes of Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong and Callum McGregor and, despite succumbing to a 2-0 defeat at the home of the champions, the teenager gained plaudits for a mature display.
Brandon has been part of every one of Hearts’ pre-season friendlies this season – including their training camp in Ireland – and appears primed to battle Michael Smith for the right wing-back role as he seeks to continue his swift progress.
He told Hearts TV: “This has all come a lot quicker than I expected. I thought it would be this coming season before I got anywhere near a runout for the first-team, so to make my debut against Celtic last season was brilliant – and I think I played reasonably well.
“The step up is big physically, but it’s massive mentally too. You always need to be switched on, you are playing against better players who are just waiting for you to slip up.
“I think that’s the biggest difference I have experienced.
“But it’s fantastic to be involved. It was only the last month of last season that I made that step up to the first-team. The standard is higher and I’m really enjoying it.
“I’m grateful to the manager for giving me the opportunity and hopefully I can take my chance and break into the side.”
Meanwhile, Hearts are running the rule over Ghanain under-20 international Michel Otou.
The combative midfielder has been training with the Tynecastle club’s development squad and was afforded a run-out against Spartans on Sunday.
Formerly of the Unistar academy in his homeland, the 19-year-old was most recently on the books of Portuguese club Portimonense, who won the second tier title last term – albeit Otou did not feature during their successful campaign.