They used to say at Hearts that you’d barely know when Aaron Hickey was within the room. The essential anomaly was that a shy, understated off-field presence was tenacious and composed after crossing the white line. Hickey was at all times destined for nice issues.
Fourteen months on from departing Tynecastle, Hickey is flourishing in Serie A with Bologna. Milan have been credited with an curiosity. There is particular consideration from the Premier League – partly linked to the added worth of Scottish gamers in a post-Brexit world – in a 19-year-old who has continued on a steep upward curve underneath Sinisa Mihajlovic.
Similarity of place between Hickey, usually a left wing again, and Bologna’s supervisor – who cast a profitable playing profession of his personal in Italy – has undoubtedly been vital. “He gives me a lot of one-to-one tips,” Hickey says. “On the ball, off the ball, defensively and attacking-wise he is very good at telling me stuff.” A Hickey smile follows. “He can lose it sometimes … but he is a top manager.”
The world has needed to know about Hickey for a whereas. Not that he has been completely inclined to open up. “Listen, I don’t mind doing these things, it’s fine,” he says. “It’s just not something I would volunteer for.” Can he plead ignorance to Italian and so keep away from membership media duties? “I can skip most of it but they bring me a translator for press conferences.” Ouch.
Bologna’s Scottish midfielder Aaron Hickey feels the pressure of Napoli’s Hirving Lozano in Serie A. Photograph: Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images
Hickey’s case is a fascinating one. It owes a lot to the fortitude he continues to cover so properly, this time in dialogue from his condo in central Bologna. As a teenager, he left Celtic’s youth system to be part of Hearts on the premise he foresaw a first-team pathway. That boldness was rewarded; Hickey was excellent within the 2019 Scottish Cup last a month shy of his seventeenth birthday. Celtic had been impressed sufficient to strive andto purchase Hickey again.
There could be no return to inexperienced and white. Manchester City and Bayern Munich additionally failed with makes an attempt to coax Hickey their means. At the participant’s behest, it was the lesser-worn path to northern Italy in a £1.5m transfer. The good cash would wager on that determine multiplying umpteen occasions for Hickey’s subsequent switch.
“I came to see Bologna and immediately liked the feel of it all,” Hickey says. “The training ground, the people, the city. Serie A was a big attraction, this felt like a good move. I also thought there may well be more opportunity to play here than at a lot of the other teams. I am very happy with out it has all worked out, with the choice that I made. They have all been good decisions so far. They have worked out the way I wanted. I have just looked at what provided the most opportunity.”
That Hickey has remained a starter this season is much more spectacular given additional context. He contracted Covid-19 in Italy final December. In March he required surgical procedure on a shoulder harm, which curtailed his 2020-21 marketing campaign. Scottish gamers have such restricted expertise when it comes to success overseas that pessimists sensed Hickey’s Bologna interval is perhaps transient. Little did they know.
“So far it has gone really well,” he provides. “Coming in to the season, I thought it might be a case of working my way back into the team after my injuries, that maybe I’d get a few games, but I’ve managed to play a lot and even add a couple of goals as well. So I’m very happy. I didn’t expect to get into the team so early and play so regularly.
“You go to bed thinking you are going to be playing at San Siro the next day. That’s a bit of a ‘wow’ moment. It has all been such a great experience.” Save, maybe, going through Achraf Hakimi, previously of Internazionale, whom Hickey cites as simply his hardest opponent. How did the Scot deal with the winger? “Not very well. We lost 3-1. He scored two.” The smile is again.
Hickey’s versatility is yet one more key attribute. His coaches at Hearts used to debate whether or not he was naturally left- or right-footed. He has performed right-back, centre-back and centre-midfield alongside left-sided defensive roles. Pieced collectively, it’s no surprise Hickey attracts admiring glances.
Aaron Hickey impressed at Hearts and rejected a return to Celtic, deciding as a substitute on a transfer to Italy. Photograph: Malcolm Mackenzie/ProSports/Shutterstock
“It’s a good feeling knowing there is interest from big clubs,” he says. “For now my head is in Bologna but I want to try and go to one of the big clubs in the Premier League or similar. That would be the ultimate thing for any footballer.”
If Hickey is remotely homesick, he masks it properly. “My pals all have jobs or are at college,” he explains. “They are living at home. One plays for Queen’s Park. It’s all very different. I don’t know whether they are jealous of me or not. They’d never let me know if they are.
“Sometimes I think it would be good to stay in Glasgow all the time again but when I get back out here, it’s fine. I miss my family and friends but I enjoy it out here, living by myself.” Hickey’s solely social media software, Instagram, is “used to see what is happening with my pals”.
With Liam Henderson at Empoli, Scotland has two gamers within the Italian high flight. Until now, solely Graeme Souness, Joe Jordan and Denis Law had represented the nation in Serie A. Sharp improvement by Hickey means there may be already trigger to ponder what occurs subsequent.