Neilson: Juanma must improve workrate to save Hearts career

Juanma Delgado was left out of the Hearts squad for Sunday's Premiership opener
Juanma Delgado was left out of the Hearts squad for Sunday's Premiership opener
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Juanma Delgado has been ordered to improve his work ethic if he wishes to salvage his Hearts career.

Although he finished as the club’s top scorer last season, the Spaniard’s lacklustre approach has left Tynecastle management exasperated as they try to maintain high levels of intensity both in training and in matches.

The summer arrival of four new strikers, Conor Sammon, Tony Watt, Bjorn Johnsen and Robbie Muirhead, allied to his own lack of recent productivity, now places a clear question mark over Juanma’s future at Hearts.

Since being taken off after 65 minutes of the underwhelming 2-1 home win over Infonet at the end of June, the 25-year-old’s involvement has been restricted to second-half substitute outings in each of the three subsequent Europa League matches. Juanma’s stock level dropped further when he was left out of the squad entirely for Sunday’s Premiership opener against Celtic, with Muirhead and teenager Dario Zanatta preferred on the bench as Sammon and Watt were paired together in a two-pronged attack.

“He’s not been doing great in training and games recently,” head coach Robbie Neilson told the Evening News. “It’s important to prove yourself in training if you want to get in the squad here. We’ve moved up a level, so you won’t get in if it’s not happening. If he wants to stay, he’s got to work hard and try and get himself back in the team.”

Juanma scored 13 goals in his maiden season in Scottish football, but the striker, who joined from Greek club Kalloni, has been unable to live up to a promising start which saw him score four times in the first five league games of last season. He has netted only four goals this calendar year and generally become more renowned for irking opponents with acts of petulance than his prowess in front.