Jimmy Sandison believes man-of-the-moment Osman Sow should resist the temptation to leave Hearts at the end of the season because he will struggle to rediscover his current sense of contentment elsewhere.
The Swedish striker has emerged as one of the top strikers in Scotland this season, with his burgeoning stock level underlined by a sensational equaliser from 30 yards out in his most recent outing, away to Motherwell a week past Saturday. It was the 25-year-old’s eighth goal of the season and his 20th since joining Hearts 18 months ago.
Hearts are currently attempting to persuade Sow to extend his contract beyond the expiry of his current deal at the end of the season, with other clubs monitoring his situation. Sandison, a former Hearts defender, acknowledges that the forward is entitled to weigh up his options, but has urged him to consider the game time, goals and adulation he has found at the upwardly-mobile Tynecastle club when deciding where his future lies. In more than two years immediately prior to arriving in Edinburgh, Sow started only 17 matches and scored just four goals for Moldovan side Dacia, Swedish team Syrianska and Crystal Palace combined, albeit he was injured for the bulk of his season with the London side.
“In football, you have to be happy where you are,” Sandison said. “Osman’s adored by the Hearts support, it looks like he’s enjoying his football, he’s playing in a position that suits him and he’s scoring goals. He looks to be totally comfortable, so why would you risk ruining that for the sake of an extra couple of quid? I’ve got no doubt he would be looked after financially by Hearts because he is a big player.
“Anybody that knows football can see that, at this particular time, Hearts are a club moving forward. The club is in super hands under Ann Budge, we’re building a new stand – this is a club to stay at, not one to leave. I’ve no doubt Robbie and Craig Levein will be emphasising to Osman that this is the place to be and that the club is moving in the right direction. It could be football suicide for him if he left now.
“Happiness is a massive thing in football. Sometimes chasing the big bucks somewhere else, you look back on it in a few years and think ‘that probably wasn’t the right thing to do’. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I don’t see anywhere else he could realistically go to get more, in terms of adulation and happiness, than what he’s getting at Tynecastle just now.”
Sandison sees Sow as a vital component of a Hearts side which is third in the Premiership and believes that exciting times await the club if they can get their other key men to follow the lead of Arnaud Djoum and Igor Rossi, who last week extended their contracts at Tynecastle.
“There are five or six guys who, in my opinion, need to stay at the club - the likes of Callum Paterson, for example, but it’s imperative that we get Osman tied down on a new deal because he’s been absolutely outstanding for us,” said Sandison, who watches Hearts every week as a co-commentator for Hearts TV. “He’s certainly going in the right direction and he’s an intricate part of a team at Hearts who are moving forward. I think it’s safe to say Hearts would be a poorer team without Osman Sow.
“In my opinion, he would be much better staying here for another couple of years just to see where the club can go because at the moment, we look to be very much on the up. Every footballer has a shelf life at a particular club and they know within themselves when it’s time to move on. There will come a time when Osman has to move on, but I think that time is still a couple of years away for him. I certainly don’t think now is the time for him to be moving on.”
Sow made a blistering start to his Hearts career when he scored eight goals in his first 12 games for the club, including a memorable late winner away to Rangers on the opening day of last season’s Championship season. A mid-season injury interrupted his progress, but he has rediscovered his mojo in emphatic fashion this season, with a string of swashbuckling displays helping cast him as one of the most complete strikers in the country. Sandison has been impressed with the way Sow has handled the step up to the Premiership while being used in various positions across the front line.
“He hit the heights at the start of last season with a super goal at Ibrox but then he seemed to lose his way a little after he got injured last season and there was a nagging worry that maybe we had already seen the best of him at the start of last season,” noted Sandison. “It’s always a demanding time when you come back from injury and people wonder if you can come back and replicate your earlier form. But the answer is ‘yes he could’.
“I’ve said so many times this season during my commentaries that, when he’s on his game, he looks undefendable. He’s so tall, he uses his body immensely well to keep defenders off him and he’s got a great turn of pace over ten to 15 yards which allows him to lose defenders. He’s also very strong on his left side, he knows where the goals are and he’s got an aerial threat. He ticks every single box as a really hard striker to defend against.
“For me, Hearts would struggle without him up top. Juanma’s doing very well up there as well and it’s nice to have two big guys who will put pressure on defenders, but we also have the option of playing Sow in that wider role off the left if required, which shows his flexibility. In my opinion, though, he’s better through the middle. I’ve been really impressed with him.”