Nathaniel Atkinson vows to ‘die’ for Hearts shirt as new signing eyes international call-up

Nathaniel Atkinson joined Hearts from Melbourne City at the start of the January window. Image: Getty

If there wasn’t enough excitement surrounding the addition of Melbourne City full-back Nathaniel Atkinson, the 22-year-old’s comments during his first Hearts press conference will only fuel the already unleashed fire of expectations.

On the Australian national team’s fridges after an impressive performance at the Olympics last summer, hot on the heels of a goalscoring performance in City’s A-League Grand Final victory over Sydney, there are more than enough pedigree and potential in his locker to gain the backing of Hearts keen on his first arc in their club colours.

Added to this is the current squad’s need for a player of Atkinson’s talents. Although Robbie Neilson’s side have done very well with the base unit – leading the battle for third place by eight points with the best goalscoring and defensive record outside of the old company – there is a popular criticism that they lack some attacking zest from the fullback positions. Veteran full-back Michael Smith performed surprisingly well in the more demanding role. Despite turning 33 earlier this season, the Northern Irishman unleashes enthusiasm in every game and has become a formidable attacking outlet for his opponents. Still, with his advanced age, it makes sense to give him more competition and the opportunity for Neilson to kick him out of the squad in search of freshness. He is also the ideal professional for Atkinson.

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Nathaniel Atkinson will battle Michael Smith (pictured) to the right of midfield in Hearts’ preferred 3-4-3. Image: SNS

When this author spoke to respected A-League commentator Simon Hill Discussing Atkinson last month, the Manchester native noted that Aussies generally travel better if there’s a familiar accent in the dressing room. Atkinson will have that in the form of popular midfielder Cammy Devlin, who with his style of action has become a Tynecastle crowd favorite since moving to Edinburgh in August.

“I settled in pretty well. It’s a little chilly but I put on an extra layer to deal with that. Just got my apartment yesterday so it’s starting to feel like home. Cammy Devlin took me to Edinburgh. I don’t have a car yet so he drives me happily. We went to a mall yesterday to get a few necessary things,” Atkinson said.

“It’s very important to have someone like Cammy to help me settle in. I’ve known him for about three years now through the national youth teams. We’ve become quite close. He’s a really good boy. He helped me a lot just by introducing me to the boys and making me feel at home. It was vital, to be fair.

“I hope to have the same impact as him. Cammy dumps her body and dies for the badge everyday. I’m the same. I hate to lose. I’ll try to win at all costs and if it means putting my body on the line, I’ll make sure to do that.

Nathaniel Atkinson in action for the Australia Under-24 team against local rivals New Zealand. Image: Getty

The player was set for his debut in the 2-0 win over St Johnstone on Tuesday, but with the hosts holding a slim late lead, Neilson opted against making an additional change to the right of defense after the arrival of Taylor Moore. at centre-back after a jab at Craig Halkett, with John Souttar (jiggling constantly ringing in his ears) moving to the centre.

That means Atkinson’s arc could come this Saturday at Auchinleck Talbot in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup. Hearts are the clear favorites to draw but know they can’t rest on their laurels after last season’s humiliating outing against Brora Rangers in the same competition.

The new signing isn’t too familiar with Saturday’s opponents or the proud Ayrshire club’s history, but he has plenty of experience in the humble but hostile environments of tournament football.

“I don’t know too much about Auchinleck to be fair. The gaffer said it’s going to be a very tough game. Obviously every game here is tough. A team like that will obviously beat a team like us but we want to win as well all matches.

Hearts’ two Australians, Nathaniel Atkinson and Cameron Devlin, are doing their best to warm up during training. Image: SNS

“I certainly had games similar to this in the FFA Cup, there are a lot of NPL teams as we call them. A lot of those clubs were linked to the NSL at the time, which had many passionate ethnic communities. I’ve had that experience in the past. So I shouldn’t be phased by Auchinleck. Luckily not.”

Once he’s had the romance of the cup, the next step is to establish himself as a team regular and then complete his rise through international youth levels to play for the Australian national team. , which is no small feat for a kid in the footballing backwater of Oz that is Tasmania.

“That’s ambition,” he said. “I thought it was time for me to go to Europe and test myself. When Hearts showed interest and offered me the chance to come to a big club in Scotland where a lot of Australians have done well , it was a good choice for me, I almost got into the Socceroos in the past and I hope I can continue to be fit, get fit and start playing.

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