Football Academy

Rankin relishing U18s' development

12th November 2021

Hearts U18s' 3-1 win at Dundee United U18s may have taken the wee Jambos to second in the league but head coach John Rankin believes his players’ development remains the most important result of all.

Murray Thomas’ double and a late Mackenzie Ross strike yesterday at St Andrews made it five wins from the young maroons’ last six league games, lifting them to second in the CAS U18 table.

Pleased with the attacking prowess his side showed throughout a game they largely dominated, John points to the experience some of his younger players are gaining as crucial to their development at the club.

Speaking to the Official Hearts Website, he said: “We went with an attacking formation and started the game on the front foot with two up front because we wanted to be quite aggressive. We knew how they would be after they came to us earlier in the season and turned us over. Having two strikers caused them problems from the beginning and we scored after only four minutes with a well-worked goal.

“As with all games, Utd had a spell where they were on the front foot and were probably had a good spell of possession but without really threatening. We scored just before half time through Murray Thomas. Murray could only play for 45 minutes because he had only started training on Monday after being out for six weeks with a hip flexor problem so we had to make a change at half time.

“We brought on another forward player and tweaked the formation slightly to try and kill the game off early in the second half. Unfortunately we never did that. We had two glaring opportunities where players must score and when we don’t do that we make it more difficult for ourselves and gives Utd that belief that if they score next then it’s game on. Credit to them, they came back to score the next goal to make a fight of it and make the last bit of the game interesting.

“Our third goal is a good bit of quality play involving Bobby McLuckie, who I thought was outstanding for a 2006 player playing at this level, and Finlay Pollock who does really well for us. He’s getting back to finding his energy levels for us and has been able to play 90 minutes in games again, so that’s good for him after a slight injury problem. It was a good team goal and a good time to score, in the 86th minute, so by that point we were comfortable.

“We’ve won five out of the last six game in the league. It gets to the stage where we’re winning games, and obviously that’s important, but the most important thing is about the player development. They’re developing in different ways.

“The pleasing thing for me is that we have full time players who aren’t even involved, because they’re in the treatment room, so we have the young ones playing, stepping up and able to get results. They’re feeling comfortable in this environment and it’s brilliant. We’ve got 2004s playing with 2007s on the same pitch.

“The Academy philosophy is to have that belief and the boys know what the team principles are no matter what level they play at, so it bodes well for the future. It’s great to look at the league table and it gives the boys a bit of belief when they see they’re near the top and they’re doing well. The flip side of that is that other teams see where we are and they want to beat us, so that’s something the players need to deal with.”