HARRY COCHRANE insists Hearts head coach Daniel Stendel has given him a new lease of life following a period of mental turmoil.
Cochrane, just 16 at the time, burst onto the scene in spectacular fashion during the 2017/18 campaign, making 24 appearances and finding the net in the Jambos’ 4-0 demolition of Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic, ending their 69-game unbeaten run.
However, he has enjoyed just eight outings for the Gorgie men since that season amid a swathe of niggling injuries, growing pains and a loss of form.
However, Stendel pointedly recalled Cochrane and fellow Tynecastle kid Anthony McDonald from their stints at East End Park in January.
While Cochrane is yet to feature under Stendel, he was knocking on the door of the first-team prior to Scottish football’s shut-down on March 13 following a string of fine showings for the reserve side.
Stendel recently stated that Cochrane is ‘one of our best young players and we want to keep him’ – and the teenager can see light at the end of the tunnel as he bids to break back in to the Jambos side.
And Cochrane said: “I was buzzing to be recalled in January and was thinking ‘if the new manager wants me back, it’s a good chance to prove I can play for Hearts’.
“When I went back the place was a bit down because of the results so I thought it was a great opportunity to push myself into the first-team.
“That was still the case when the season was stopped. I was still pushing hard and playing reserve games.
“I’ll go back [when football resumes] and keep doing the same things as I was doing before I left.
“I feel like I’m trying a lot harder than I was last season when, honestly, I wasn’t feeling mentally great – and was thinking ‘there’s nothing I can do here to get myself in the team’.
“My mentality has changed now and I’m working harder in the gym, working harder on the park, doing more running and I need to keep improving whenever we go back – and hopefully I get another chance.”
Cochrane readily admits that he has struggled to adapt to Stendel’s intense, high-pressing style.
However, he has seen enough signs of positivity to know that the former Barnsley boss’ masterplan can succeed. Ultimately, he reckons it is a matter of trust.
In an Instagram live interview with Livingston’s Marvin Bartley, he continued: “His [Stendel’s] style of play is different from what anyone at Hearts had been used to.
“Trying to adapt to that was one of the hard things when I went back from loan. It still is. I’m still trying to adapt to how he wants me to play.
“His view is ‘don’t think about it – just go’. If you don’t have the ball, then don’t think about what’s behind you, you need possession to score a goal so go and press the ball. And if the ball goes past you, there are players behind you who are following the same plan.
“It’s about trusting each other and having confidence that someone else will be supporting you, and vice-versa.
“We are trying to do it at reserve level as well and it’s working really well, so I definitely like it.”