HARRY COCHRANE arrived at Hearts training to find his boxer shorts in the sink and his boots soaking in the shower – and the Tynecastle teen could not have been happier.
The 18-year-old completed a Jambos right of passage when he lined up against Hibs last Sunday, making his 30th senior appearance for the club.
Under Craig Levein’s watch, that earns a youngster a peg in the first-team changing room.
Until that point Cochrane, despite a host of dazzling displays last season, was still getting changed with the kids.
He received a tradition welcome at the start of the week when he found his gear scattered all over the place.
The finger of suspicion is being pointed firmly in the direction of Scotland star John Souttar but, after a campaign marred by fitness woes, Cochrane is too elated with being back in action to be bothered by the prank.
He said: “Being in the senior dressing room has been good so far – I got my shoes tied up to the showers and my boxers were in the sink.
“I hadn’t really thought about what might happen [as a welcome] and then, as soon as I came in and saw one shoe, I thought: ‘Ah, that’s me.’
“I’m going to say that John Souttar is the culprit but I’m not sure. No, actually, it was definitely John Souttar. That’s when you know you’re in the first team . . . I just can’t wait to do it to Connor Smith!
“I’m just on such a high just now. I feel brilliant. I feel like a proper first-team player and it’s good to be back.
“I was expecting to get to 30 games a lot earlier but, due to injuries, it’s been a tough season for me. I’ve been struggling for game time to so be back in on Sunday and play in an Edinburgh derby was amazing.”
A turbulent campaign for the gifted playmaker started last summer when his pre-season preparations were interrupted by an ankle strain and he has gone on to suffer five separate injuries. His impressive showing in the 1-1 draw at Easter Road was just his sixth outing this term.
That compares to 24 appearances during his breakthrough year in 2017/18, including a man-of-the-match showing as Hearts ended Celtic’s 69-game unbeaten run with a 4-0 triumph at Tynecastle. Cochrane scored the opening goal that day.
He smiled: “Last year, I was the luckiest guy in the world. Maybe I deserved this season to even things out!
“Foxy [coach, Liam Fox] has had a word with me a few times because I was getting a bit fed up not playing any games through injury and Naisy has been good with me as well.
“I try and to positive but sometimes it was hard. I can’t even remember all the injuries I’ve had.
“But I’ve been working with the sports scientists – it’s about getting in the gym and eating well. I’m eating a lot, which is quite hard considering I’m a wee guy. But I’m getting there.”
And Cochrane revealed that he suffered another injury scare in the week leading up to the showdown with Hibs, rolling his ankle in training and leaving him fearing the worst.
He continued: “It wasn’t anything serious but at the time I did think: ‘Not again, man.’
“Thankfully, I was okay and I got to play in the derby. I haven’t had that feeling of starting a game in a while, so that was brilliant.
“ I didn’t really feel any pressure in the game. It was just about going out and enjoying myself after so long out, and that’s what I did.”
At the grand old age of 18, Cochrane concedes that he felt experienced at Easter Road thanks to the presence of 17-year-old debutant Connor Smith alongside him in midfield.
The teenage duo were laudably nerveless in Leith.
The pair have come through the ranks at Hearts together, are firm friends and mainstays of the Jambos side that lifted the Reserve Cup on April 1.
Cochrane laughed: “I felt experienced at the weekend! It was brilliant.
“Connor [Smith] did great so it was good to see that. Hopefully, he can kick on now as well.
“I just told him what I still do: don’t feel any nerves. There’s no pressure on you, you’re the youngest guy on the park so go out and feel free.”
Finally fit and firing, Cochrane can now turn his attention to building momentum against Kilmarnock this afternoon as he bids to make himself impossible to ignore when boss Craig Levein picks his team for the Scottish Cup final against Celtic on May 25.
He added: “Everybody is fighting for their place in the final and it’s all about the lead up to it and how well we play. Hopefully, I’ll be involved. I need to get my match fitness up and get a lot fitter.”