Hearts midfielder Harry Cochrane has signed a new three-year contract and admits he began the season with aspirations of flourishing for the under-20s, never mind the first team.
Cochrane has enjoying a stunning breakthrough campaign for Craig Levein’s side at just 16-years-old, making 21 appearances so far.
The highlight remains his first ever competitive goal as the Gorgie outfit ended Celtic’s record-breaking 69-game unbeaten domestic run with a 4-0 thrashing in December.
Amid suggestions that English Premier League club Brighton and Championship outfit Leeds United were tracking the teenager, Cochrane has agreed a 12-month extension to a previous deal that was due to expire in 2020.
The Scottish FA performance school graduate has displayed remarkable composure on the pitch at such a tender age but admits off it he is overwhelmed by the impact he has made.
Cochrane said: “I’m delighted to even be offered the new contract, so I couldn’t knock it back and I’m looking forward to playing here for another three years.
“I had just signed my first professional contract last summer and back then I was just hoping to get another contract after the three years here.
“To get it now and to be where I am is just amazing, I still don’t believe it yet.
“It’s better than I excepted it to be, I thought I might have scored a few goals against Celtic in the under-20s.
“The goal against Celtic is the highlight of my career but it’s the highlight of my life so far. Hopefully it will happen again and it’s not the last time.
“To play the amount of games I have, I’m a bit tired now but it’s been amazing, really good.
“I just want to be playing games for Hearts and continue to develop the way I’m developing and hopefully score some goals next season.”
The Scotland under-17 internationalist is not the only player to have benefitted from manager Levein’s willingness to turn to youth, with fellow teenagers Anthony McDonald, Lewis Moore, Euan Henderson, Andy Irving and Daniel Baur also having sampled senior football this term.
Cochrane insists a clear path to first team football was a key factor in agreeing extended terms, and believes there is no chance he will get too big for his boots.
He added: “It was an easy decision to make, when you look at this season and how well they’re promoted young players into the first team.
“I hoped that I could get my chance to play and it was so easy to take the offer.
“For any young boy coming through in the academy they should be looking at Hearts and thinking, ‘this is the best place to be in Scotland just now’.
“They’ve got such a great opportunity to play in the first team and they just need to keep working.
“We’re not there yet, we still need to keep going and keep working but it’s a great place to promote youth players.
“The manager tells us not to get carried away with it or get big-headed, he said to me the other day, ‘make sure I don’t get big-headed’.
“But my head was a bit small as my team got beat in training. I just need to keep my feet on the ground.”
Hearts look likely to end a frustrating season in sixth place but as Levein prepares for another squad overhaul this summer, Cochrane insists he has his sights set higher next term.
Speaking to Hearts TV, he added: “Hopefully we can get a shot at Europe next season, we need to perform.
“The results haven’t happened for us this year but the performances have been there, so we need to perform and just need to take our chances when they come.”