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Good time to be young at Hearts

Hearts are supposed to be having a nightmare.

That would all seem straightforward were it not for the fact there are one or two around Tynecastle apparently still to notice, with Sam Nicholson wandering breezily around the old ground as though unaware a storm of discontent is passing overhead. "Running out at Tynecastle is a dream come true," said the teenager.

It is possible that the midfielder will be redirected into a cupboard should the Scottish Professional Football League send somebody round to check up on the well-being of Hearts' young players. The club are again attempting to have a transfer embargo lifted by the league's governing body - citing the strenuous demands it is placing on a young and inexperienced squad - and Nicholson's enthusiasm at turning out for the first team does not follow the party line.

The 18-year-old is instead inclined to make the most of an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his favourite side. Nicholson was once a season-ticker holder at Tynecastle and watched in awe as the likes of Rudi Skacel, Takis Fyssas and Edgaras Jankauskas led the club to two Scottish Cup successes in six years. The midfielder cannot hope of emulating such a feat quite yet but he is excited at the prospect of writing his own Hearts history this season.

"All the players want to do is play," said Nicholson, who made his first-team debut against Inverness Caledonian Thistle last month. "Whether they need a rest or not, a lot of the players don't want to rest. All they want to do is play anyway. The more times we feature for the first team, the more used to it we will get. In a few years we will be experienced at this level. I think it can be better to be chucked in at this age."

A match with Motherwell today is not likely to be a chance to resurrect hopes of salvaging a survival bid in the SPFL Premiership this season, with Hearts still 19 points adrift of Ross County at the bottom of the league table. Nicholson does not feel likel moaning about the situation much either, though.

"I used to have a season ticket and went to all the games, so running out at Tynecastle is a dream come true," said Nicholson. "My family have come to all my games and I get a lot of support from the Hearts fans. The guys I used to go to the games with are in among the fans who sing now . . . the mad ones.

"Being a fan, when you're on the pitch you know what it means to all the fans watching you, so it makes you work that wee bit harder. I'm not sure I would have got my chance if we hadn't been in this situation, but I am grateful for the opportunity."

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