Beni Baningime has seized the opportunity to make his mark at Hearts but says he won’t he carried away with the impact he’s made.
The midfielder has been out of the stand-out performers in the early stages of the Premiership season, after joining Hearts from Everton in the summer.
The 23-year-old signed a three-year deal at Tynecastle after failing to build on a promising start at the Toffees and being loaned out to Derby and Wigan. He said that when choosing a new club, the chance to play and to feel like he was going to be part of things was a major factor.
“Looking at the great midfielders at Everton I didn’t feel I was going to get a chance, which is completely fine,” Baningime said. “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.”
Though he has quickly established himself as a key part of Robbie Neilson’s side, and a favourite with the Hearts support, Baningime said he is aware he needs to stay grounded, having experienced ups and downs in the past and having seen how others can be affected by praise or criticism.
“I appreciate the praise but I’m weird when it comes to stuff like that,” he said. “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.”