Hearts teenager Harry Cochrane insists the battle for a midfield jersey this season will only make him better.
The hugely talented 17-year-old knows he faces greater competition to keep his place in Craig Levein’s team after making 25 appearances in a stunning breakthrough campaign last term.
From the 11 summer recruits Levein has brought in so far – Olly Lee, Ollie Bozanic and Ryan Edwards can also play in the middle of the park.
And with fellow midfielders Arnaud Djoum, who is recovering from an Achilles injury, Don Cowie and Ross Callachan vying for a place too, Cochrane has vowed to show he can play a key role in the forthcoming campaign.
Cochrane, who returned from illness to make his first pre-season outing in Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Partick Thistle, said: “I just want to play the same, if not more for the first team this season.
“I know that will be a challenge because there are a few more midfielders signed.
“It’s heathy, it’s competition and you need to try and keep yourself in the team.
“They are brilliant players who have come in and you saw that on Sunday – Olly scored a wonder goal.
“It’s not going to be as easy as last season and if there are not as many injuries then it’s going to be harder to get a chance in the team but I’ll relish that challenge.
“Every new signing we’ve brought in has impressed me in training and hopefully I’ll have impressed them as well.
“You can see the quality the new guys have got and their work ethic. They work so hard and I’m trying to copy them and do what they do.
“If you’re playing in the team and there is no competition, then you won’t develop a fast as you could.
“There was probably a lack of midfielders last year and there were a few injuries and luckily enough that’s what got me my chance in the team.
“Hopefully this season I will work hard enough and play well to keep my place in the team.”
Hearts manager Levein also showed faith in youngsters Anthony McDonald, Lewis Moore, Euan Henderson and Andy Irving last season and Cochrane admits knowing there is a pathway fills him with confidence.
He added: “It’s good to be recognised by the manager and for him to rate me highly and keep me in the squad is brilliant.”
Cochrane admits he was also over the moon when 45-times capped Scotland internationalist Naismith’s season-long loan return from Norwich City was confirmed last week after the 31-year-old spent the second half of last term at Tynecastle.
He added: “I was buzzing when Naisy returned, it’s brilliant and he’s such a great guy.
“He’s such a professional and he makes sure everything is done properly everyday so it’s good to have another year learning off him.
“I go over my videos with him and you’ve got to listen to what he’s got to say because he’s played in the Premier League.
“If that’s where you want to be, you need to copy what he does everyday.
“If you’re training with players like Don, Arnaud, Naisy every day then you’re going to learn off them and develop as a player.”
Levein expressed his concerns that Cochrane was not physically ready for the rigours of Premiership football last term, but the Scotland under-17 cap believes he is now stronger, especially after a gruelling pre-season programme.
He added: “Gullane beach was the toughest running I’ve ever done in my life.
“The first few days we were running big laps of the training pitches at Heriot Watt and the beach was just running up the sand dunes.
“I’ve not got very big legs so they didn’t cope well with the sand.
“I feel I’m developing and feel that I’m a lot stronger when I’m out there so I need to keep at the gym this year and keep the fitness.”