Hearts boss backs teenager for bright future

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Hearts manager Craig Levein has backed Harry Cochrane to become a first team regular after handing the 16-year-old his competitive debut last weekend.

The midfielder started in the 2-1 defeat to Dundee and grew in confidence as the game went on before being substituted in the 73rd minute, just moments after Kyle Lafferty had equalised.

Cochrane also created history in becoming the Scottish FA’s first performance school graduate to begin a Premiership game.

Levein was furious his side conceded two set-piece goals to Kerr Waddell in the Dens Park set-back but insists the performance of the teenager has given him food for thought.

Levein said: “Like everybody else, he took a little bit of time to get into the game.

“I thought as the game wore on he got better. He will be a very good player for Hearts in time.

“I had hoped we would make this a day to remember for the young boy by winning but you don’t always get what you deserve.”

Levein, meanwhile, hopes the club will be able to unearth more players like Cochrane after entering into a partnership with Balerno High School in Edinburgh to launch their own performance school.

Following the SFA’s model, promising players will combine their education with football up until the age of 16 and will receive an extra 90 minutes of coaching per day.

Former Scotland manager Levein said: “It’s massive for us. We have a lot of kids who are already enrolled in the SFA’s Performance Schools but to have our own one is a big step forward.

“It means we have some control over what we teach the kids and we can then keep an even tighter grip on the programme.

“My biggest bugbear just now is that kids simply don’t play enough football. We’re trying to remedy that and this new partnership with Balerno will a huge help.

“I’m very, very hopeful that we’ll see the benefits of this in the not too distant future. People sometimes think these projects only come to fruition way down the line, but we’ve got kids like Harry Cochrane who are appearing in the first team at the age of 16.

“There are others in that age group who I would love to fast forward by a few years in order to get them in our first team, so we’re trying really hard to develop our own young players. That’s what will sustain the club going forward.”

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