HEARTS have held in-depth talks with striker Juanma Delgado to demand he improves his discipline.
A red card for headbutting St Johnstone’s David Wotherspoon on Saturday angered the club’s management team and the player was summoned for talks at Riccarton yesterday morning. Hearts have decided not to appeal the decision and will accept whatever punishment is meted out to Juanma. He was sent off for violent conduct, which carries an automatic two-match ban, meaning he misses the next two games against Celtic and Dundee United. Robbie Neilson’s squad did a light training session yesterday after battling to a 0-0 draw with ten men in Perth the previous day. Juanma’s needless dismissal on 27 minutes left some of his team-mates raging but they fought hard to secure a point despite the numerical disadvantage. Juanma knocked Wotherspoon over and then saw the St Johnstone midfielder kick out in anger before the Spaniard reacted with a headbutt.
Neilson is unsure how much contact was made and Juanma has stressed to his manager he did not touch Wotherspoon. However, after nine yellow cards and now a red in 21 games for Hearts, senior officials are demanding the 25-year-old addresses his lack of discipline. He has scored nine goals in all competitions in his first season in Scotland but is in danger of becoming a liability if he doesn’t control his emotions.
“I spoke to him after the game, he was in yesterday and I spoke to him again,” Neilson told the Evening News.
“There’s no point fining him money or anything like that, he’s going to miss the Celtic game now. That’s the biggest game in Scotland next weekend and it’s one he’s desperate to play in. Now he’ll miss it.
“He could possibly miss the game after that, depending what the referee has put in his report, so he’s only got himself to blame. We have a lot of big games coming up that all the players want to play in and he’s not going to be available.
“It’s something we’ve spoken about. I’m not going to say publicly what we’re going to do but generally we do fine players for red cards. For me, money is not the issue here. If you fine somebody a certain amount, they’ll pay it and that’s it. The biggest punishment is not being involved in big football matches.”
Wotherspoon could find himself in trouble over his kick at Juanma, which may be looked at by the Scottish Football Association compliance officer Tony McGlennan. Neilson felt Juanma was initially the victim but became the villain because of his reaction.
“He’s finding it hard at the moment. He’s making silly decisions but he’s also getting targeted a lot with physicality,” continued Neilson. “On Saturday, he went in, the referee gives the foul and then the other player kicks out. Juanma reacts to it and there’s a coming together. The fourth official [John McKendrick] decided he was in a position where he could send a player off.”