Don Cowie insists the Hearts players will back Conor Sammon to the hilt as the under-fire striker struggles to win over supporters.
The Irishman has been the subject of flak from a section of the fanbase virtually since he joined in the summer, with some booing when he was announced as man of the match in the Europa League defeat by Birkirkara in July.
Although he showed some promise with a couple of impressive displays against Celtic and Inverness Caledonian Thistle in August, the 30-year-old has generally toiled to live up to the demands of the Hearts support and has found himself cast as a scapegoat when things are not going well.
With criticism intensifying after a return of just two goals in 14 starts in the opening months of the season, Sammon, pictured above, was dropped to the bench for the trip to Inverness in late October and hasn’t started a game since. After coming on as a half-time replacement for Prince Buaben in Saturday’s draw with Partick Thistle, the former Kilmarnock, Wigan Athletic and Derby County striker again found himself the target of fans’ ire after toiling to get any change out of a robust and well-organised defence.
As was the case in a match at home to Dundee two months ago, some even booed the decision not to replace him when Jamie Walker and Bjorn Johnsen made way for Robbie Muirhead and Tony Watt to come on for the last 16 minutes on Saturday.
Cowie admits it is difficult seeing a colleague being so publicly castigated. “I’ve got sympathy with Conor because he’s my team-mate,” the midfielder told the Evening News. “It’s disappointing when people get singled out. I see him day in, day out and he’s a model professional who works hard in training and in the gym. He’s so meticulous in terms of the way he looks after himself.
“The young players can learn a lot from Conor in terms of how he goes about his business. For whatever reason, it’s not quite happened for him goal-wise since he’s come here but, as his team-mates, we all know what he can do for us. Conor’s played in the English Premier League and played for several years at some big clubs down south – you don’t do that if you’ve not got something about you.
“Obviously, there was an expectation when he signed that he would be a player to get goals for us but he’s been in and out of the team, so it’s hard for him to get any rhythm.” Cowie believes Sammon has a strong enough mentality to cope with the withering criticism from supporters, and made it clear that he has the full backing of his team-mates as he bids to get his Hearts career up and running. “He’s fully focused,” said Cowie. “He’s blinkered to [the criticism], and that’s a great asset to have.
“All we can do is get round each other and help each other when things like that arise. We’ll back him to the hilt.”