BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HARRY COCHRANE insists there is no chance he will get too big for his boots – because he is still cleaning Arnaud Djoums.
The classy 16-year-old turned in another tidy display against Dundee after entering the fray as an early substitute, helping Hearts claim a hard-fought 2-0 win at Tynecastle.
He has now racked up seven senior appearances since making his debut in the reverse fixture between the sides at Dens Park in September, and has never looked out of his depth as he establishes himself as one of the brightest teenage talents in the Premiership.
Nevertheless, Cochrane still doesn’t have a peg in the senior squad’s dressing room at their Riccarton training base – he gets changed with the under-20s – and traditional groundstaff traditions like scrubbing boots live on at Hearts. Just don’t expect a Christmas bonus for it.
Cochrane ticked off another, less testing, career landmark on Tuesday evening, speaking to the assembled press for the first time ever, and he was quick to laud the grounding afforded to the youngsters at Tynecastle, regardless of how prominent their rise.
Cochrane said: “It is important that we are still involved with the under-20s, because that is our age and we are still developing. We’re still actually still cleaning boots. I’m on Foxy’s [coach, Liam Fox] and Arnaud Djoum. That’s all good for your discipline.
“Hopefully, I’ll get a wee Christmas bonus for that. Although I doubt I’ll get much off Foxy.
“Hearts keep us grounded and disciplined and make sure there is no chance we’ll get too cocky or anything like that. I’m not going to go up and slag Aaron Hughes any time soon!
“But it’s amazing to be a part of things, it’s what you dream of – to get that opportunity to play in the first-team and show what you can do. The manager is willing to do that and it has definitely come a lot sooner that I thought; I didn’t imagine I would be playing for Hearts at 16, but I’m determined to take my chance.
“The toughest part has been the physicality. It is tough to compete with some of the bigger boys in this league. You are facing huge guys and you think ‘woah?’ Did you see the size of [Soufien] Moussa on Tuesday night? I was thinking ‘he’s about double the size of me’.
“Thankfully, I didn’t get in many battles with him. But that’s the case sometimes and you just need to take the hit, be brave and bounce back.”
Remarkably, Cochrane was not the most inexperienced Hearts star on show against the Dee, as another 16-year-old, Anthony McDonald, was handed his first-ever outing for the club and dazzled on his debut. He scrubs David Milinkovic’s boots, incidentally.
McDonald produced assists for Isma Goncalves and Christophe Berra and handled the occasion with aplomb, displaying the technique and quality that Jambos insiders have been raving about since the start of the season.
Boss Craig Levein was adamant that fielding McDonald was NOT a risk, as he is the closest thing to a replacement for the injured Jamie Walker that the club have – a mantle that Cochrane reckons he will live up to.
“I was absolutely buzzing for Anthony, to see him playing for the Hearts first-team,” beamed Cochrane. “He really is a great player, he’s just so tidy on the ball. You can’t tackle him in training! You cannot get the ball off him. It’s brilliant to see him show that on the big stage.
“It’s exciting when you come through at the same time and I know Tony will be delighted – he’s been waiting for this moment for a while and he could definitely come in for Jamie Walker in the long-term.
“I think he has got the ability in him and he has that confidence you need. He’s not cocky, but he’s got self-belief – and a wee bit of patter in the dressing room. Great lad. If he keeps performing like he did against Dundee then he will fly.”
Cochrane has lined up against Hibernian and Rangers, however those challenges pale by comparison to Sunday’s visit of champions, Celtic, and their midfield enforcer Scott Brown. Nevertheless, he is desperate for the nod.
“It is a huge game to look forward to and I would be delighted to be involved,” added Cochrane. “I’ve been watching Scott Brown since I was a boy so that would be something special. It would be a tough game and a real challenge, but that’s what you want as a young player.”