WINGER Lewis Moore has signed a new two-year deal with Hearts – mere months after fearing he was destined for the Tynecastle exit door.
The 21-year-old has been a bright spark for the Jambos since the turn of the year, becoming a surprise regular after head coach Daniel Stendel was won over by his energy, direct running and work rate.
Moore made nine appearances after returning from an ill-fated loan stint with Falkirk, including standout showings in memorable triumphs against Rangers and city rivals Hibernian.
And he has been rewarded with a contract which will keep him in Gorgie until the summer of 2022.
Moore said candidly: “I was on loan at Falkirk and that really didn’t work out, so my thought was ‘how am I supposed to get in the Hearts team?’ I assumed I would come back, get sent straight back out on loan then be looking for a new club in the summer.
“I was convinced that I’d be out the door by this point. Thankfully, I got a wee bit of luck that I think I was due.
“But [former U18s coach] Andy Kirk was moved up to first-team coach when Daniel Stendel came in and he was someone who believed in me. He said to the manager ‘take a look at this guy’.
“I came back to training and we did an 11 vs 11 drill one day and the gaffer was pleased with how I did. That weekend I started against Airdrie [in the Scottish Cup] and it took off from there.
“The gaffer [Daniel Stendel] gave me an opportunity and the main thing is his style really suited me. He gets annoyed if you don’t try things, he wants you to be creative and he keeps your confidence sky high.
“You never feel like you are there to make up the numbers with him and, given I’ve not always believed in myself enough, that is exactly what I needed as a player.
“It was sink or swim for me. I know the script at a club the size of Hearts. I’ve seen so many boys over the years who have gone into the last six months of their deals and not done enough. I said to myself: ‘Time to get the finger out’. I didn’t want to be the next one out the door.
“A lot of talented players have slipped down the leagues and are maybe not playing at the level they should be. That’s the way their careers panned out – but I wanted to play for Hearts.
“As far as I’m concerned, anywhere else is stepping down a level and I realised that.”
The turnaround in Moore’s career has been astonishing, given he played just three games for the League One Bairns during the first half of the season.
Allied with the tragic death of his father, Michael, last summer, Moore has come through the most difficult year period of his life – and believes he has emerged stronger from huge personal and professional challenges.
He continued: “I know for a fact a lot of people will be thinking ‘what happened there? He was at Forfar, couldn’t get a game at Falkirk, now he’s playing for Hearts’ first-team?’
“My heart has always been in it but my head sometimes hasn’t. I went through constant set-back after constant set-back and I felt like all the bad luck in the world kept falling on me.
“I can’t go through much worse than I have already – nothing will be as bad as that – and hopefully I’m stronger for it, and this is the start of something.”
Moore, meanwhile, is praying he gets the chance to continue his rise in the top-flight, stating his belief that Stendel would have guided the Jambos away from the drop-zone if the Premiership season had been completed.
But if Ann Budge’s last-gasp attempt to salvage her club’s top-flight status via reconstruction fails, Moore is more than happy to spearhead their attempt to get out of the Championship at the first time of asking.
Moore added: “I read all the time on social media, ‘Hearts deserve to go down’ but it IS unfair. We were four points behind with 24 points to play for so it is unjust for a team to get relegated in that situation. We believed that we would get out of that position.
“But conversations about that are happening well above my head – I just can’t wait to be kicking a ball again.
“No matter what division the club is in next season, I never wanted to leave Hearts. I’ve heard from plenty of people over the years, you don’t realise what you’ve got until you leave and next season will be a fresh start.”