“I’m delighted for him, he’s there on merit” – Andy Halliday on the emergence of Hearts star Finlay Pollock

Andy Halliday spoke with the media following Hearts’ 3-0 victory over Cove Rangers on Tuesday. Jamie McIntosh reports.

Photo Credit – SNS Group

Finlay Pollock gained his first senior start in maroon when Hearts defeated Cove Rangers 3-0 at Tynecastle on Tuesday night. 

The youngster started in midfield, alongside the experienced Andy Halliday. The latter opened the scoring, but it was Pollock who grabbed the headlines. 

“I’m delighted for Finlay; he is there on merit,” Halliday said. 

“He has trained well, and he performed well last season. Making his first senior start, you could see he was full of adrenaline and he showed great composure for someone so young.

“He wasn’t scared to play forward and try the risky pass and he has a bright future. I spoke to him a lot during the game to try and help him, but that’s the same with any young player. The manager has given us a clear message over the last four weeks. It’s important for experienced players to speak to the younger players on the pitch.

“He is young and keen and developing every single day. He will sometimes need help with his positional sense on the pitch but that’s what older players do. He did well and this is just the start for him.”

Pollock almost marked the occasion with a goal when striking the Cove Rangers post, but Halliday jokingly admitted he wanted the ball cut-back to him:

 “I wasn’t too happy he never cut it back to me, but he was unlucky. He took a great touch to take it away from the defender and he got off a great strike that unfortunately hit the post. He made a positive impact and I’m delighted for him.”

Fans returned to Tynecastle on Tuesday for the first time in 494 days and Halliday again heaped praise on the youngster’s name, explaining how well he coped with the returning atmosphere that fans bring:

“We have all been there as young players. You can get caught up in the moment, you are eager to impress, and you lose your shape. I probably did it as well because it’s been so long since we played in front of fans. It would’ve been easy to get carried away, but I thought he coped really well, as did all the boys.”

Pollock isn’t the only youngster impressing in the Hearts ranks just now and Halliday admitted the youth will be given chances this season and will have a big part to play:

“If you include Craig Gordon, we had five academy graduates on the park and they will have a big part to play for us this season. 

“I wouldn’t describe Finlay as the benchmark, but the young boys have to look at the opportunity he got, how he trained and how he performed. Players will get chances and the gaffer has said that. They have to take them.”

Halliday bagged the opener on Tuesday night with a low drive from range and has previously said, he doesn’t score as many as he feels he should but admits his delight at this goal and the overall performance:

“I don’t score many these days. I scored in my first Hearts league appearance and I have done it again this year. I was delighted but more importantly it was another win and another clean sheet as well. I think you can see the manager and staff have worked hard on how we want to play, and we have implemented that.”

Halliday arguably had one of his best displays in a maroon jersey on Tuesday night since joining Hearts in September 2020 and the midfielder puts it down to a strong pre-season.

“I feel a massive difference this year. Every player will tell you it’s difficult if you haven’t had a pre-season. You are playing catch-up with the boys who are there. I was eight to 10 weeks behind last year and it caught up with me towards the end of the season.”

The midfielder was substituted after 75 minutes against Cove Rangers having gone down with an injury, but he explained it’s nothing serious:

“I’ve had a niggle with my back in the last week or so, but I’ve still competed.” 

Looking ahead, Halliday is full of optimism for the new campaign, insisting that the Jambos will have a new style of play 

“We are kicking on to a better league and we have ambitions to be competitive in that league and bodies coming in will drive on the boys here and make us better. They’ll have to adapt to our style of how we want to play, because I think that’s been evident in the two games we have played this season, we are going to go into the season with a style on and off the ball. The gaffer will add more quality, but we welcome that. 

“It’s been a positive four weeks for us and a good start to the season, but we know we have a long way to go to keep getting better.”

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