Former Celtic academy youngster Aaron Hickey has reflected on turning down a contract at this ‘boyhood club’ before returning to Hearts.
The 20-year-old has had an incredible rise since making his debut for the Edinburgh side at just 16 years of age in 2018.
After leaving Hearts, Hickey spent two years in Italy with Serie A side Bologna before making a big-money move to Brentford in the English Premier League this summer.
If we go back a few years to Hickey’s days as a youth player, the full-back spent time within the Celtic academy between his two spells at Tynecastle.
As a self-confessed Celtic supporter, you would imagine it would be any youngster’s dream to go on and play for their boyhood heroes.
However, after being offered a contract at Parkhead after his four years in the academy, Hickey took the brave decision to head back to Hearts, where he believed game time would be more achievable. And the rest is history.
Speaking in a recent interview, the Scotland internationalist opened up on that period in his career, stating that the opportunity to play football is what attracted him back to Edinburgh, which ultimately turned out to be the correct decision.
He said [Brentford FC]: “I started off at Hearts when I was really young – I would’ve been around ten when I joined, and I stayed until I was 12,” Aaron recalls.
“Then I went to Celtic because it was my boyhood club. I went there for a good four years. Celtic offered me a contract, but I wasn’t playing much. I thought there would be a better opportunity for me to play at Hearts.
“Being young, you have to play football. You have to make the right decisions.”
After making his debut the previous week, his first start for the Jambos came at none other than Celtic Park, where he faced up against the 2018/19 Scottish Premiership winners.
Hickey reflected on what that opportunity was like for him at such a young age, revealing that his dad was actually in the Celtic home end that afternoon.
He said: “The manager [Craig Levein] thought I did okay against Aberdeen, so he put me in for the Celtic game at Parkhead in front of 60,000.
“That was class – I loved every minute of it. It was a sell-out at their stadium. I remember getting cramp during the last half an hour! [Laughs]
“I had a few of my pals in the Hearts end, and I think my dad was in the Celtic end!”
It has been quite the journey for Aaron Hickey as a young player, going from the Hearts/Celtic academies to performing regularly in the English Premier League. Oh, and who could forget his stop in the Serie A?
Although it might come as a frustration for some that the Hoops weren’t able to convince a talented player like Hickey to stick around, it has been the best move for his career.
Now, the full-back is an international regular and going up against some world-class players south of the border. There is no guarantee that would have happened without game time as a youngster.
Ultimately, both Hickey and Celtic as a club are in a good place. So, all we can do is look back at this and think what could have been had an opportunity arisen for Hickey to remain as part of the club’s academy.
In other news, Former key Celtic staff member appointed at English Premier League side.