AS a full-back himself, Michael Smith is well placed to judge the prospects of young counterpart Aaron Hickey, and he firmly believes the 16-year-old is set for the very top.

Hickey was thrown into the Hearts starting line-up for the Scottish Cup final after making his debut against Celtic in the final league game of the season.

And from the opposite flank, Smith was blown away by how the young man took the whole experience in his stride.

"He was unbelievable," Smith said. "When the team got announced on Friday I took him to the side and said 'that's not bad for your second ever start.'

"Fair play to the kid, he takes it all in his stride. He's calm...too calm for my liking! That's why he played so well and that's why he's going to be a star in the future.

"He's quite shy as all young lads are, but he's got a good football brain. You can see he's had a bit of coaching and the manager and coaches will bring him on and he could be a real, real player.

"He performed so well last week last Sunday at Parkhead there was a real chance he could start the final. The gaffer had faith in him and rightly so.

"A few of the boys had a little word with him [before the game] but he was cool as a cucumber. I think I was shaking more than him! But that's just the kind of kid he is. He's a good lad."

The mixture of young talents alongside some more experienced heads that Craig Levein is putting together in his squad is giving Smith plenty of encouragement that next season can be an even more memorable one for Hearts.

"We can do more with the squad and strengthen in certain areas but we've got a good core, and if we bring in the right people with the right mentality, we've got a chance again next year," he said.