Robbie Neilson has urged Hearts fans not to write off left-back Juwon Oshaniwa.
The Nigerian internationalist arrived amid a wave of hype last summer after playing all four games for his country at the World Cup finals just a year previously.
However, he has struggled to live up to expectations thus far and has lost his status as first-choice left-back in recent months. The 25-year-old has featured in only three of Hearts’ last 12 matches and hasn’t appeared in any of the last five.
Under contract until 2018, Neilson remains confident Oshaniwa will prove his worth and insists it is merely case of allowing the African time to find his feet in a new environment.
“Juwon’s found it quite difficult trying to adjust to everything,” Neilson told the Evening News. “I still expect him to play a part in the rest of the season. We’ve had Jordan McGhee and Igor Rossi coming in and doing well at left-back so it’s been a difficult period for him. He’s a good player and he can expect to get more game time towards the end of the season.”
Neilson dismissed the notion that Oshaniwa has been a misjudged signing and was keen to point out that he has started 18 out of 30 league matches in a team with the second-best defensive record in the Premiership.
“The defence as a whole has played well,” he said. “We’ve got one of the best defensive records in the country and we’re sitting in third position and Juwon’s played a part in that. He’s started 18 league games for us. Like a few of our players, it’s been difficult for him to adjust to a different climate, a different country and a different style of football, but he’ll be a good player for us.
“At the start of the season, he did really well but, as the pitches and the weather deteriorated, it can be difficult for him. They all know that nobody can expect to play every single week and that we need to use the squad. He’s a professional. He trains well and he’s ready to go when needed. I genuinely think as the weather gets better and the pitches get better we’ll see the best of him.”