Date: 19th June 2015 at 4:52pm
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Yesterday was a proud day for five Academy graduates as they penned their first professional contracts at the club.

Moving into the first team picture possibly next season will be Callumn Morrison, Kelby Mason, Leon Jones, Lewis Moore and Daniel Baur but you would imagine it will be a year or two before we really see much of them as they continue their development.

Having now gone professional, they will spend most of the time with Director of Football Craig Levein and U20s Player Development Manager Jack Ross – but you’d imagine Robbie will be keeping a watchful eye on their progress.

Speaking to the Official Site Ross said it was naturally an exciting time for the club to reward improving and impressing youngsters, and in many ways last season fell well for each of them in terms of the opportunities they had to shine in youth football.

‘It`s exciting for them. We had a conversation with them all quite a while ago about having the opportunity of coming in full-time and they`re all delighted to get that. It`s probably been a long time coming for them to come in and officially sign and they`re looking forward to starting over the next couple of days. It`s exciting for them and hopefully the start of a long career with Hearts.’

Ross went on to say that over the course of 2014-15 all five had good exposure in the various levels, catching a number of coaches eyes because they weren’t just turning out for the Academy teams, they all got game time at under 20 level having impressed enough to be given opportunities and not having looked out of place at that level, despite their ages, it only helped the decision of the club to tie them down to their first pro deals.

‘A lot of them had game-time with U20s, which was challenging for them because they were playing above where they probably could`ve been at that time, but I think they gained invaluable experience from it. It allowed us as a coaching staff to assess them and we had them in often during their school holidays and so on, so that allowed us to see them within the training environment.’

Ross does say that each of them has potential, but each are at their own stage of development with different qualities, but often you can be surprised by how soon somebody appears ready for the next level and as is often the case somebody can just explode in their development and really kick on in a short space of time – but what’s important for them is they realise in many ways the hard work has only just begun. It’s one thing earning the first professional deal, it’s another to get an extension.

‘You always get surprised by one or two and you look forward to seeing how they adapt to the full-time environment because it is demanding. Hopefully the players recognise that and, after speaking to them and their parents over the past few months, they know what`s expected from them. It`ll be different for them, undoubtedly. For us who are around the club every day you can get kind of blasé about being pitchside but it`s such a big thing for them to come in and experience this kind of thing. It`s also a huge incentive to have the opportunity to maybe come here and play at first-team level, it`s a fantastic carrot for them to have.’

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