Hearts cannot get a break.
An effort to convince the Scottish Professional Football League to relax a signing embargo was unsuccessful earlier this week, despite the club citing the physical pressures such a restriction is placing on a callow squad. Tynecastle officials claimed too much was being asked of a team they considered too young to cope with grown-up issues such as rescuing a place in the SPFL Premiership.
The Edinburgh club would appear sincere in their concerns about their young players suffering burnout, although Mikey Devlin cooled such talk yesterday. The Hamilton Academical defender turned 20 earlier this season and has been maturing as part of a team in pursuit of promotion to the top flight. The Lanarkshire side - they have signed the Celtic teenager Paul George on loan until the end of the campaign - would return to the top of the Championship should they win against leaders Dundee on Saturday.
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His introduction to first-team combat has been comparatively gentle since Hamilton have not been forced to make the same battlefield promotions awarded to some of Hearts' youngsters, but Devlin was adamant that he would not get tired with the opportunity to play regularly in the Premiership. "I would bite someone's hand off for the opportunity to play regularly in the top division," said the defender, who has missed just two matches this season. "Some of the Hearts boys are in at the deep end in the Premiership and are being forced to deal with that. We would love a chance to go and do that.
"I think when you compare yourself, in terms of your age, to guys who are playing elsewhere: [Everton forward Romelu] Lukaku is my age and look at the level he's playing at. He's a Belgian internationalist. I think you have to start taking a bit of responsibility once you get to 19, 20. You need to consider yourself a man and be treated the same as someone like Martin Canning [the 32-year-old Hamilton defender] would."
It is unlikely that Adam Cummins will seek special treatment either, after the Motherwell defender joined Dundee on loan. Having become starved of chances at Fir Park, he is determined to earn a return to prominence. "I played 33 games [for Motherwell] last year and this year I've played in five," he said. "I couldn't afford to take a year out."