Esmael Goncalves expects fruitful Hearts partnership with Kyle Lafferty

Esmael Goncalves
Esmael Goncalves
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Esmael Goncalves believes being similar characters off the pitch will allow him and Kyle Lafferty to flourish on it.

The strikers played together for the first time on Wednesday for the final 18 minutes of Hearts’ 1-0 friendly defeat to St. Patrick’s Athletic in Dublin.

The pair will likely get the chance to combine again today as Hearts take on Linfield at Belfast’s Windsor Park.

Goncalves has been getting to know the Northern Ireland international during Hearts’ Irish pre-season tour this week and appears to have found something of a kindred spirit in big the 29-year-old from Enniskillen.

“Everything starts off the park,” said the former St Mirren striker. “If you have a good relationship off it then it helps build a better understanding on it.

“My relationship with Kyle has been great so far. I read that he said he will score 20 goals this season – I will not say how many I will get as we will see in the end!

“Kyle is certainly not shy, but he is a very funny guy – we both like to have a laugh and a joke off the pitch but we are deadly serious about football once we step on to the park. We treat every game seriously as we both like to get the job done.

“If Kyle and myself are good friends off the pitch then it is going to be easier for us to form a partnership and a relationship on it. If you don’t have a relationship off the pitch then it can be difficult to forge relationships on the park as sometimes players may think, ‘I don’t want to pass to my team-mate because I don’t like him’. These things can happen.”

While Goncalves is hoping to hit the right notes with Lafferty in the games to come, he revealed the Hearts number nine didn’t score highly when it came to the traditional initiation songs this week.

“Kyle had to do an initiation song in front of the team and he sang a song called I’ll Tell Me Ma – it’s an Irish folk song – but he was pretty bad and it was horrible to listen to. Kyle’s a much better footballer than he is a singer!”

In fact, Lafferty was upstaged by compatriot Michael Smith, who apparently stole the show.

“Michael was the best singer of the new boys,” admitted an impressed Goncalves. “He had a good voice and sang Livin’ On a Prayer by Bon Jovi – he made a decent job of that.

“I had to sing a song in front of the players when I joined Hearts and I was very bad like Kyle, but these things are good for team spirit and bonding. Lots of players were singing and we had a good laugh together.

“Getting away on a pre-season trip is good from that point of view. It helps create relationships in the team and that can only be a good thing for Hearts.”