Former Burnley midfielder Steven Hewitt is loving life in Australia. The 26-year-old joined Hume City in 2019, and after a strong first season in the NPL Victoria has been handed a more attacking role in the side, with A-League scouts circling.
Before Covid-19 struck, Hume were on five wins from five in the 2020 campaign – and Hewitt had already notched three goals and two assists.
It is perhaps surprising, then, that Hewitt expresses disappointed with his form in an exclusive interview with Tribal Football. But his opinion of himself chimes with the expectations drilled into young players as they graduate through top-level academies, and Hewitt is articulate and open in describing how luck, circumstance, and mental strength determine who makes the grade and who doesn't.
"I'll be honest, I haven't really been happy with the way I played personally, this season anyway," he said. "I've scored three goals in five games and assisted one or two, so I've been in the thick of it, but in my personal view, I've gone down since last year.
"But if I'm scoring goals and being effective then I must be doing something right. I'm always my biggest critic. No matter what I do I'll always criticise myself more than anything else. So maybe I'm being a bit harsh on myself, but I always am."
Hewitt told Tribal that his more advanced role this season means he is expected to take more risks with possession, rather than recycle the ball like he used to, which explains why he instinctively feels he is playing poorly despite a strong creative output. That, it would seem, is the way most footballers who come through English youth academies would react.
"I'm always harsh on myself, it's just the way I was brought up, and when you're playing under someone like Sean Dyche you've got to be harsh on yourself to better yourself. You always want to impress, and you don't want to be too confident. You want to always try to work on your bad areas, so from a young age you're always trying to see what you can improve. I guess it is drilled into you."
Hewitt, who spent four years in and around the Burnley first team and made a handful of first team appearances, believes it is the ability to channel this competitiveness into self-belief that marks out the top players.
"I think it's probably one of the reasons why I'm not playing at the level I was," he said. "If you look at the top players, whenever they give the ball away or make a mistake they just let it go – they focus on the positives and not the negatives."
Having spent several years in the squad, Hewitt found that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Burnley's promotion in 2014 meant more experienced players were bought by Dyche, and while the midfielder remained on the fringes he found out, like so many others, that being in your early 20s simply isn't considered young in the football world.
"As a young player, they expect you to make mistakes and they understand, but as you get into yours 20s – it's still young, but not in modern day football – it changes. That's when they say you're making mistakes and you've got to be better, and you put pressure on yourself. You see all these players breaking through at 17, 18, and you realise that the three-year gap is big, and it's quite tough, but that's football I'm afraid.
"I was kind of expecting to be released. I was 21. I was still young, but not in football terms, so I understood it fully."
Video Courtesy of OzGoals