Being thrown into the starting XI for your first start of the season against Celtic will always be daunting. At just 19-years-old though, Andy Irving dealt with that pressure superbly.
Irving looked confident during his final day performance against Celtic. At a packed Parkhead, he compteted well with the likes of Oilver Ntcham and Callum McGregor. He played the full 90 minutes as the Jambos eventually lost out 2-1.
The midfielder thought he fared well as he looks to earn a regular first-team position.
He told the Evening News: “It was massive for me to get that game in. It kind of came out of the blue. “I had a reserve friendly on the Tuesday and I wasn’t really expecting to be involved. Once I was told I was playing I couldn’t have been happier. I couldn’t wait to play.
“I’ve never played in front of 60,000 people, it was pretty crazy with the noise they make. When the ball is out for a throw-in or there’s a break in the game, you actually look around and hear them all. It is quite intimidating but you just get on with it.
“I feel I handled it pretty well even though it was intimidating. Aaron [Hickey] and Connor [Smith] coped well, too. It will give us confidence for the future and it can only bring us on.”
Irving has an uphill task to retain spot
The midfielder did impress against Celtic. He moved the ball really well and was strong in the tackle. It was a promising sign for the future of Hearts’ midfield.
In the short-term though, he faces a bit of a battle to keep a starting place. The re-emergence of Ryan Edwards seen him earning starting spots in the final weeks, Peter Haring is a guaranteed starter when fit and Arnaud Djoum may still be a Tynecastle next year.
Factor that in with Harry Cochrane, Oliver Bozanic and Olly Lee being more than likely to stay in Gorgie next season, Irving has his work cut out.
He’ll need to really shine in pre-season if he wants to earn appearances. The midfield department is a busy one in Gorgie and Irving would do well to become a regular squad feature.
Regardless, his sole Premiership appearance in the 2018/19 campaign was a promising one. If he continues to play like that, Irivng will make his way into regular plans in the coming years.