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Hearts history with Australian players a comfort to Nathaniel Atkinson

Heart of Midlothian v Hibernian – cinch Premiership – Tynecastle Park
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

Nathaniel Atkinson admits the steady stream of Australian success stories at Tynecastle reassured him about making the move to join Hearts.

The right-back has joined Australia Under-23s team-mate Cammy Devlin in joining Robbie Neilson’s side this season.

The duo have followed in the footsteps of fellow Australians such as Ryan McGowan and Dylan McGowan plus Patrick Kisnorbo – who was Atkinson’s most recent manager at Melbourne City.

“I have been pretty close to Cammy for about three years now,” Atkinson said.

“We went to the Olympics together and he’s a good mate so he is someone that has been looking after me and introducing me to people. He had told me it was a terrific club to be at.

“It was definitely reassuring to see a lot of the boys had come over, especially the McGowan brothers. Pretty much every Australian recruit did well and made a good career out of it.”

Atkinson got his first taste of the Tynecastle atmosphere when he sat on the bench for the midweek cinch Premiership victory over St Johnstone.

“It was amazing,” the 22-year-old said. “Coming from Australia, it’s not the number-one sport, so we were playing in front of between four and eight thousand people.

“To see a fully packed stadium with crazy fans who are passionate about the club and would die for the club was definitely an unreal experience. I can’t wait to get out there. Hopefully it comes soon.”

When asked what Hearts fans could expect from him, Atkinson said: “A player that hates to lose, a player that will fight for the badge every day and run up and down, hopefully take on a few players and score a couple of goals and a couple of assists but also help the team keep a few clean sheets along the way.”

Hearts fans may have to wait slightly longer to see Atkinson in action with the player building up his fitness and their team facing an intriguing Scottish Cup fourth-round tie against Auchinleck Talbot in Ayrshire on Saturday.

Hearts’ 2012 Scottish Cup final thrashing of Hibernian nearly did not happen because they only squeezed past Talbot earlier in the competition thanks to a solitary late goal and a generous offside flag following a late equaliser.

The Jambos have had recent experience of Scottish Cup shocks against non-league opposition after being on the end of defeat by Highland League Brora Rangers last season and Neilson knows Talbot have a strong pedigree.

“They have had some brilliant results over the years, especially at home, and they have been one of the top Junior teams for a long, long time,” he said.

“So we know it will be a tough game, a physical game, and one we need to make sure we are ready for.

“It’s interesting, a lot of the Lowland League teams and Junior level teams are probably better than League Two teams and some of the League One teams as well.

“Because it’s more of a community club, guys are part-time and working and they get good crowds as well.

“I know a number of players who have had options to stay in the league but have decided to go to a Junior team or a Lowland or Highland League team because it suits them better for their lifestyle.”

Liam Boyce is back for Hearts while Beni Baningime could be on the bench but Ben Woodburn misses out with Covid-19.

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