John Souttar: From Howe o’ the Mearns to Heart of Midlothian

Pic Greg Macvean - 20/08/2016 - Hearts v Inverness, Tynecastle
Hearts - John Souttar
Inverness - Liam Polworth

Pic Greg Macvean - 20/08/2016 - Hearts v Inverness, Tynecastle Hearts - John Souttar Inverness - Liam Polworth

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It’s said that every young boy dreams of being a footballer but for Hearts FC and Scotland Under 21s defender John Souttar, it became a bit more than that.

The 20 year old grew up in Luthermuir, before leaving school and entering football professionally.

“I grew up in the country always playing football and was obsessed with it – whether it was watching premiership games or Luthermuir amateurs – I just always wanted to watch and play it. I wasn’t particularly interested in doing anything else.”

The Scotland U-21s international attended Luthermuir Primary school and then Mearns Academy, before leaving in fourth year to focus on a career in football.

At the age of nine, John joined Dundee United FC’s youth system, having previously been with Brechin City youths.

In moving to Tannadice, John was closing in on a career in football, but he still had to go to school, despite missing odd classes for training and games.

Photographer Ian Georgeson, 07921 567360
Hearts Vs Kilmarnock, Tynecastle Park
Hea: John Souttar (Hearts, 14) 
Kil: Martin Smith (Kilmarnock, 6)

Photographer Ian Georgeson, 07921 567360 Hearts Vs Kilmarnock, Tynecastle Park Hea: John Souttar (Hearts, 14) Kil: Martin Smith (Kilmarnock, 6)

“I don’t think they believed I was going to become a footballer but it’s all I ever believed I would do, and I wanted to prove them wrong.”

John was born into a footballing family, as his father Jack had previously played for Brechin City.

Like John, his younger brother Harry (now Stoke City Under 23s), was intent on making a future in the game. John also had support from Ryan Gauld (Sporting Lisbon CP, currently on loan to Vitória de Setúbal) and Euan Spark (Dunfermline Athletic) who joined Dundee United Youths at the same time.

“We all had the same attitude in terms of wanting to make a career out of it. We were travelling to Dundee five times a week so it was good to grow up with people wanting to do the same thing as you with their life.”

John spent his earlier teenage years in the Dundee United youth system, before making his debut for the senior side against New Firm rivals Aberdeen at the age of 16 – making him the youngest ever player for the Tangerines.

After four seasons at Tannadice, and having made 73 appearances, Souttar signed a deal with Premiership side Heart of Midlothian FC in the closing hours of the January transfer window in 2016.

Souttar has been at Tynecastle ever since, regularly playing in the starting eleven for Scottish Premiership and cup fixtures.

He described an average day’s routine to me: “Usually we are at the training ground for half-nine, start training at half-ten for a couple of hours of football. We go to the gym straight after that and then sometimes head out again around half-one for a smaller session which is usually less than an hour. After that I just head home to chill.”

As well as the Hearts first team, Souttar has also made six appearances for the Scotland Under 21s – as well as previously earning eighteen caps in the Under 19s and Under 17s squads.

When asked about the future, John said: “I just want to become as successful as I possibly can, and reach the highest level of football I can.”

In recent years, the Mearns area has been home to some great footballing prospects. John has now made it as professional footballer and continues to further his career in the game.

For anyone back at home hoping to follow suit, John has this advice: “Just enjoy yourselves playing football. It involves massive dedication – maybe sacrificing some of your childhood in terms of not doing stuff other people around you are doing.

“But the reward is waking up every day doing something you love. I have loved it my whole life and it’s my job even though it feels nothing like one.”