Viktor Noring stands nearly 6ft 5ins tall, a hulk of a man with huge shoulders and equally big ambitions. He is the latest new recruit to check in at Hearts and firmly believes his new club can challenge one of his old ones, Celtic.
The 25-year-old Swede has plenty to concern himself with as he tries to establish himself at Riccarton. He will compete with Jack Hamilton aiming to dislodge the young Scot and become first-choice. Assessing the wider picture, he is confident Hearts can compete at the top end of the Ladbrokes Premiership this season.
Noring spent six months on loan at Celtic from Swedish side Trelleborgs in 2013. He spent most of that time watching a team, then managed by Neil Lennon, playing in the Champions League knockout rounds and heading for the second of five straight Scottish league titles.
Fraser Forster and Lukasz Zaluska were Lennon’s first-choice and deputy keepers respectively, leaving Noring third in command. He watched, listened and learned and managed to gain a firm grasp of the mechanics of Scottish football. Now he is back, eager to help Hearts challenge Celtic’s monopoly.
“We have many nationalities here and you can see the club is well run,” said Noring, who signed a two-year deal with the Edinburgh club on Friday. “It’s one of the best clubs to be at in Scotland to develop and I think it’s going to be good.
“We finished third in the league last year so why shouldn’t we go for a run this year? We have one more year experience and it’s almost the same squad, so why not? It’s a gap that can be breached. It’s football, anything can happen. You saw it at the Euros and you saw Leicester last season.
“I don’t think I have anything to prove to Celtic because, when I was there, I think I did well in training. It’s about me showing to myself that I’m good at this level now. That’s why I came here because it’s a good level and if you start playing you can get good experience and learn a lot.
“In the last couple of years I’ve not been playing as much for different reasons, I was a bit unlucky not to get the chance to show myself. That’s in the past and I’m hopeful here. I’m hungry to play, to play in front of many people and big crowds, that’s one of the things I’m striving for.”
Frustration has been a familiar emotion for Noring in recent years. He found himself unable to command a regular starting place at Bodo/Glimt in Norway, Dutch club Heerenveen and, last season, Lyngby in Denmark. He knows he can’t really afford to play second fiddle at Hearts if his career is to progress.
“Every footballer wants to play. Jack has been here a few years so it’s been hard for me to play in the Europa League games. It’s about coming in and settling in and try to perform on the pitch when I get my chance,” he said.
The spell at Celtic, he insists, brought him vital experience. “When I was at Celtic it was the time they were in the Champions League. They had a really good squad with some good goalkeepers. So, for me, it was to go there and get some experience and learn from it,” explained Noring.
“The funny thing was, I think I signed and then the next day was the first game against Juventus at a full Parkhead. It was pretty impressive to see the crowd and everything like that. It was less a disappointment to not be involved, it was more a learning experience to see what you can become in the future.
“It was the first time I’d moved away from Sweden so it was a way to try to establish myself there. It was a good feeling for me. Fraser Forster is a really good goalkeeper, in the England squad. I learned a lot when I worked with him and with the goalie coach there.
“Even if I was just there for six months and had a chance to stay there, maybe it was better to find somewhere else for me to play. I knew Fraser was doing really well and Lukasz was a very good back-up. I knew it was going to be tough for me to play there so that’s why I left.
“I had a chance to stay at Celtic, I was there for six months and there was an option to stay on. We decided with the club and me that it was better for me to find somewhere else that I could play because they had Fraser on a long-term deal and Lukasz was also there. It was the best solution for me.”
Now he finds himself close to Lennon once more, albeit on the opposite sides of another football-mad Scottish city. “It’s not ironic he’s in the same city. He’s been at Bolton and now he’s back at Hibs. I think it’s a good opportunity for him also.
Of course you speak to your goalkeeping coach more because he is the one you’re working with all day, every day. There’s more contact with him.”
The only way Noring will come up against Lennon this season is if Hearts and Hibs meet in a cup competition. The Swede is more concerned with the Premiership, and helping the Tynecastle club mount a challenge to Celtic.