Hearts being ‘stepping stone’ no problem for boss

Juanma Delgado wants to win a move to England by shining for Hearts
Juanma Delgado wants to win a move to England by shining for Hearts
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ROBBIE NEILSON insists he has no problem with ambitious imports like Juanma Delgado using Hearts as a springboard to the English Premier League.

After signing a three-year deal at Tynecastle last week, the 24-year-old Spanish striker explained that he saw his move to Edinburgh as a stepping stone towards one day realising his dream of playing in the top flight down south.

Neilson is entirely comfortable with his new recruits having such an outlook when they join his team as he believes Hearts will benefit if they display the drive and quality to achieve their goal while wearing a maroon jersey. The head is also “realistic” enough to acknowledge that players of a certain standard will only come to Hearts because they view it as a platform to more lucrative pastures in England.

“These players want to play in England and that is the reason they come to Scotland because they see it as a better pathway to go down south,” Neilson said. “Hearts have to be realistic about that and it is a part of football.

“Players like Juanma aren’t going to hang around for ten years as they are here for a couple of years maximum as they want to take the next step on their careers. That is why we get players like Juanma.

“Juanma has come from Greek football and it is difficult to go from Greece to England and play at a high level. If he manages to come to Scotland and do well then he has that platform, but he has to do a job for Hearts.

“If they get their move to England then it is because they have done well for Hearts and that is a win-win situation for us. We shake their hand and wish them well after that.”

Juanma is expected to make his first appearance in a Hearts jersey in tonight’s friendly against Bohemian at Dalymount Park in Dublin (kick-off 7.45pm).

From viewing him in training over the past few days, Neilson believes Hearts have landed a coup by signing the Spaniard.

“I can see already that he is going to be a top player for us,” he said.

“He offers something completely different to what we have already. I could tell that within five minutes of training that he is going to be a good player. I am delighted to have got him in and I have no issues about him.”

Hearts flew out to Ireland this morning for a four-day pre-season trip which will include two friendlies.

Neilson will use the time in the Emerald Isle to further run the rule over his squad and assess which of his younger players are likely to be prominently involved at the start of the new season and who may benefit from being farmed out.

He revealed that he has been inundated with requests to take his youngsters on loan. Queen of the South were keen to land Gary Oliver as part of the deal that took Gavin Reilly to Tynecastle, while Kilmarnock are among the teams monitoring Dale Carrick’s situation.

“We will take a look at them over in Dublin when we play the games,” said Neilson. “If they get involved in the games then we will assess them and see where we are with them. We have already had loads of managers on the phone asking to take players on loan, so there will be some boys going out. We’ve still to decide yet where they go.

“We need to weigh up whether we send them to a Championship club and they don’t play or are they better going to a League One team where they will get regular first-team football. I can usually tell in the first few games where they are in terms of their development.”