Beni Baningime insists there is no chance of him taking his fans’ favourite status at Hearts for granted because he knows how quickly things can turn for the worse.
The 23-year-old has been a revelation since arriving at Tynecastle on a three-year deal in the summer following his departure from Everton.
Baningime has had hype before after he made a positive impression when featuring in 12 games for the Toffees as a teenager in the 2017/18 season.
The Congolese-Englishman was unable to build on his early success at Goodison and made only three first-team appearances during loan stints with Derby and Wigan between April 2018 and joining Hearts this summer.
Baningime said: “It’s been three years since I last had a proper run of games. I was 19 and it seems like forever ago. I’m just glad I’ve started well here because it could have gone the other way.
“When you’re not playing or you’re playing under-23s football, it feels like nobody really knows what you’re doing and you start having thoughts about whether you’re good enough or the hype was all over nothing. I just thank God that I kept on working and here I am now.
“I appreciate the praise but I’m weird when it comes to stuff like that. I’m not like a natural footballer. I’m on social media sometimes but I’m not really on it.
“It’s always good to hear what the fans and other people are saying but I’ve learned that I just need to concentrate on my football and what the gaffer wants me to do. I’ve seen a lot of people that it’s got in their head when they’re doing well.
“When the fans love them, it’s great. But when the fans start turning on them when it’s not going so great, it gets to them even worse. That’s what I’m wary of, but it is great to hear people saying nice things about you.
“My friends and family and a few of the boys have told me about how much the fans are appreciating me and showed me some social media posts. I had a lot of it when I first broke in at Everton, very similar to this, and I had to learn how to work with it.
“Some players thrive off hearing from the fans but for me, I think when you start looking to the fans for approval and you then don’t have a good game, not everyone will support you.”
Baningime is surprised at how quickly he has got his career back on track at Hearts after fearing he might end up on the scrapheap when he left Everton.
He said: “Looking at the great midfielders at Everton I didn’t feel I was going to get a chance, which is completely fine. For me, it was just a case of wanting to go and play football wherever that was.
“I just said to my agent ‘find me a club – whoever wants to play me, take me there’. I didn’t think too much about where I wanted to go. If you haven’t played for three years, no-one’s really going to look at you, are they?
“It’s crazy. Two months ago, I was looking for a club and nobody really knew who I was. People probably just thought I was a 19-year-old who had done well but wasn’t really good enough. I’m just glad that I’m doing well and proving them wrong so far. I’m loving it at Hearts.”
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