BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Callum Paterson insists he is learning to curb his enthusiasm on Hearts’ return to the top-flight thanks to invaluable advice from two of Scotland’s “best ever” defenders.
The 20-year-old originally burst into the Jambos first-team as a striker under John McGlynn during the 2012/13 campaign and has retained those attacking instincts following his switch to right-back.
However, he reckons his extra one-to-one coaching from Tynecastle gaffer Robbie Neilson is already paying dividends as he prepares to cross swords with the more talented wingers of the top flight.
Paterson also heaped praise on director of football Craig Levein, who remains a Hearts legend and won 16 caps for Scotland, as he aims to become a more rounded player.
The Scotland under-21 starlet said: “I have two of the best former defenders in Scotland coaching me every day, so it’s great to have them at close quarters. I feel as if they’re improving me as a player.
“Robbie [Neilson] gives me pointers after every game and every training session. He takes me to the office and shows me what I can do better and what I’ve done well.
“He tells me how I can improve my game. It’s good to get that one-to-one coaching. Craig’s not involved quite as much as Robbie – but he is always there to help me out.
“I was more of an attacking-minded player than Robbie but he played in my position for years against some of the best players in the World so he can teach me a lot.
“My natural instinct is to go forward – it’s hard to keep me back. But I’m learning from Robbie about how to do the defensive side of the role. I’ll need to reign that in at times in the Premiership.
“I can’t just bomb forward whenever I want. Against Motherwell, for example, Marvin Johnson beat me easily a few teams when I wasn’t really expecting it so I’ve still got a lot to learn.”
Paterson has still managed to get his name on the score-sheet this term, netting in the thrilling 4-3 win over St Johnstone in Hearts’ Premiership opener, and will be at the heart of the action as the Jambos aim to keep their 100 per cent record in tact against Ross County this afternoon.
It has been a dream start for the newly-promoted side, drawing comparisons with George Burley’s team of 10 years ago, which kicked off their campaign with eight wins on the bounce.
And Paterson believes the winning mentality fostered during their march to the Championship crown last term has been vital.
He added: “Every sportsperson has to think they are going to win their game or their race. We always have that mentality, even if we go 1-0 down we always believe we are going to come back.
“There were a lot of hard grounds to go to in the Championship and stuffy teams to play against. But we always had belief that we would come through.
“We showed that against St Johnstone, we were 3-1 up and lost two goals and then came back to win it. So the mentality is there.”