Hearts defender Ryan McGowan sees his future at Tynecastle.
His initial six-month loan with Ayr United was renewed at the beginning of January, meaning McGowan stays with Ayr until the summer. Then it's back to Riccarton to stake a first-team claim using the experience gained from a First Division relegation battle. Jose Goncalves intends to leave Hearts on freedom of contract in June and a defensive void will be someone's to fill.
McGowan is hell bent on being that someone.
"I was quite happy to stay and push for my place at Hearts this season. The gaffer thought it would be better, at my age, to go on loan," he told the Edinburgh Evening News. "I was away with Australia for the Under-20 World Cup (last September] so that cut me off a little bit. When I came back the opportunity at Ayr was there and I took it.
"The manager just said that, at this time, it would better for me to get first-team experience. I'm pretty sure he knows I'll be back next season and pushing more towards the first team. By then, I'll have eight or nine months experience in the First Division. Some boys might look at it if you get sent on loan and think that's it, the club don't want you or they don't see a future for you. I see it as a great opportunity to be able to hold my own if I come back and get put into the first team. It might take me three or four games to get used to SPL standard, but I think I'll be ahead of boys who haven't had that first-team experience because they've been sitting on the bench.
"As a centre-back or centre midfielder, they (Hearts] aren't looking for a young boy, they're looking for experience. So the best thing for me was to go out on loan and I was lucky enough to get a First Division club. Some clubs at that level might not have taken a chance on a younger player. It's been everything that I expected.
"Ayr get decent crowds. We played Dundee away, who are averaging about 5000 at home. Because we're down the bottom we have to battle away so it's not pretty football all the time. I'm getting used to that aspect. Hearts are a big club and when we play other SPL teams we tend to boss most games. At Ayr, no disrespect to them, we're struggling in a relegation battle just now. I'm learning how to dig in and grind out results, play ugly football, I guess."