JAMIE WALKER has described the Rangers transfer saga which preceded his departure from Tynecastle ‘a mess’ and, with the benefit of hindsight, accepts that neither he nor Hearts were blameless.
Nevertheless, the returning winger is adamant there was never any ill-will between himself and Gorgie boss Craig Levein insists he is ready to end his career with the capital club. Ideally, having lifted a trophy.
The Gers saw three separate bids for Walker kicked out in the summer of 2017, the highest being in the region of £600,000. Hearts held firm despite Levein confirming that he was keen to leave his boyhood club.
He does, however, wish he could turn back the clock and handle the exit better.
“I don’t have regrets about the departure, but just the whole Rangers thing,” Walker acknowledged honestly. “That turned into a bit of a mess.
“It was tough and I think maybe the club and myself didn’t deal with that in the best way.
“I’m thankful that is all in the past and I am looking forward to the future and doing well for Hearts. It is up to me to score goals, do well and help the team on the pitch.
“There was a perception from people on the outside, because of the Rangers situation, that Craig [Levein] and I didn’t get on. That wasn’t the case.
“We were both men about that and accepted that what happened, happened. I have always got on with Craig and I like him as a manager. He seems to like me as a player and can get the best out of me, so there were no hard feelings at all between us.”
With no scores to be settled or lingering resentment, Walker did not need to think twice when Levein picked up the phone and offered to extricate him from no man’s land at the DW Stadium.
“Because of the [knee] injury I had in January, I knew I wasn’t going to play again that season and that meant an entire season where I hadn’t played a game for Wigan,” continues Walker. “So it was in my mind that I was going to leave the club.
“I didn’t know that Craig [Levein] wanted me to come back here at that time but I was keeping my options open and when Craig gave me that opportunity, I was over the moon.”
Walker is honest enough to accept that some fans may still be harbouring resentment for the way he left the club, with a perception among a vocal portion of the Jambos support that he was desperate to engineer a move away from Hearts and his performances dipped as a result.
Nevertheless, his return was widely welcomed on social media and Walker has vowed to win over any remaining sceptics by recapturing the blistering form which made him one of the brightest young talents in Scottish football.
“How do I win those fans back? With good performances,” he said. “I scored a lot of goals when I was first here and I want to do that again, turn in good displays and work hard. That is what I will look to do.
“Hopefully, I can turn around any supporters that are doubting me coming back and show them what a good player I am.
“I’ve got such an affiliation with this club. I’ve been here since I was eight years old and if I was to end my career at Hearts now I would be really happy.”
Having watched Hearts’ campaign from afar last season, Walker is determined to return the Jambos to the upper echelons of the Premiership – while he has set his sights on silverware in his second stint at Tynecastle.
He added: “If I was to win a trophy for Hearts it would make my career and be incredible for my family.
“Also, finishing sixth for this football club is not good enough, so we need to get back up towards the top three or four and into the European places. That will be our aim and, although we have a tough start to the season, hopefully we can pick up a few points and kick on from there.”