ABIOLA DAUDA’S time in Scotland is drawing to a close and the Nigerian is grateful for this valuable career experience.
He is three months into a four-month loan at Hearts and has enjoyed learning a different culture and style of football.
The Ladbrokes Premiership is a vastly different landscape to the Dutch Eredivisie, where Dauda is registered to Vitesse Arnhem. Physical strength and brute force are vital commodities in Scotland and the striker admits he has taken time to adapt. Whilst doing so, he has also shown flashes of technical brilliance.
Those inside Dingwall’s Global Energy Stadium in early February marvelled at Hearts’ very own bright spark as two class finishes from Dauda lit up a 3-0 victory. Since then, he has been very much a bit-part player, often restricted to a place on the substitutes’ bench.
He scored against Inverness last month, taking his goal tally to three in 11 appearances. He is disappointed not to have made a greater impact but stressed that Scottish football has made him a better player.
“I’ve learned a lot since I came here. It’s totally different,” he told the Evening News. “I’ve learned that sometimes you have to be more of a physical presence with a little bit of technique. It was a learning process for me and I’m really thankful for the experience I have gained here so far. There are four games to go so I just need to do all I can to help the team achieve every result.
“Nobody likes to be on the bench, everybody wants to play. I have a desire to play but this is a team sport. I accept my role. I came in and had a few games. I needed some time to get used to the way of playing, the team and the other players. I feel it’s better now.
“I’ve been here three months, I think I’ve progressed well and I think I have adapted. It’s a really short time to show what I can do. I’ve taken it well, I respect the coach’s decision. If he calls on me to start or to come in as a sub, I will try to give everything I have.”
This weekend offers the perfect occasion for Dauda to begin a strong finish in Edinburgh. Celtic visit Tynecastle for a fixture which always belongs in the “powder keg” variety. An extra edge will be present this time because victory for the Glasgow club would virtually secure their fifth successive league title. The only way Aberdeen could then catch them would be to overhaul a goal difference which is currently 36 in Celtic’s favour.
Despite his Nigerian roots, Dauda isn’t keen to witness a green-and-white party. “No, not really. I don’t think anyone wants to let that happen,” he said. “We don’t want to lose the game and let them become champions on our pitch. That’s not going to be a nice thing for the fans or for the club. I think we’ll be ready to spoil the party.
“Celtic at home will be a massive game for us in front of our fans. We got great support in the Aberdeen game and if we can give the same performance then we have a better chance to come out with the three points. We have to do twice as much as we did at Motherwell.”
Hearts’ performance in Lanarkshire at the weekend was uninspiring to say the least. Lionel Ainsworth’s goal gave Motherwell a deserved victory on a day their opponents failed to reach the high standards set this season. Dauda is remaining positive, though.
“Like the coach said, we just have to forget it. These are the games we have to win if we want to be one of the top teams. I think every game is very hard in this league. If you fight, you get a better result. We didn’t do a lot of that on Saturday. We didn’t play the way we should and I don’t think we put a lot of energy the way we should. This is football so we just have to focus on the big one this week.
“Saturday could have been an important step for us towards second place. If we won we would have closed the gap to five points. We couldn’t do it but there are four games and it’s still possible to finish second. We still have to play Aberdeen. For now, we have to prepare for Celtic. I think that will be a massive game.
“We just have to play our own game, play the way we did against Aberdeen at home. We need to press them high all over the pitch and don’t let them play. Celtic are a very experienced side. They like to keep the ball and we can also play. I think it will be down to which team wants it the most. I hope we can do better than Saturday.”