OSMAN SOW steps out of the Riccarton dressing-room ready to discuss Sunday’s encounter between Hearts and Dundee United.
It takes him about two strides to walk the length of the corridor due to his giant 6ft 4in frame. He arrives with a handshake and an honest appraisal of his season so far.
“I feel like the coin hasn’t really dropped yet but I feel it’s coming,” says the striker of his own performances. “Sometimes you go through times when it’s like that. You just need to keep doing what you’re doing and the coin will come down. It will come. It comes when it comes, I just need to be patient. The most important thing is the team winning. We want to get back to winning again and that’s what we’re all focused on.”
Sow has two goals from ten league games in Hearts’ first season back in the Ladbrokes Premiership. Compare that to last year, when he scored seven from his first ten outings in the Championship. His progress was quickly interrupted by a torn thigh muscle in October and he is determined to avoid any injury problems this time.
“I’m looking after myself so hopefully there will be nothing like that. I don’t want to tempt fate so I touch wood and just take it day by day. I’m thinking more about everything now. I think about food and sleep and everything I do. I think it’s helping me.”
Hearts’ fortunes this season are similar to Sow’s in the sense that they have been slightly inconsistent. A blistering start brought five wins from their first five league outings but since then form has wavered. That said, they remain in third place and can be satisfied with the first quarter of their campaign as the league’s newly-promoted club.
“If somebody said before the season we would be third in the league by the time the October break comes, I think I would have taken it,” says Sow. “I didn’t know the league before and now I know what it’s like. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we will get better. If we keep working as hard as this, we will get better.
“It’s been an okay start. We could maybe have got a few more points but now we know what we’re dealing with. Hopefully we can do even better from now on. The first part of the season is finished, we’ve had the international break and now we know every week what we need to do. We are getting better every day and I believe we can do something good this season.
“It’s a really competitive league. You need to be at your best to get points in every game. We have maybe reached our best in flashes but not consistently. The target is still to finish in the top six. We will take it from there once we get closer.”
Sunday would be an ideal time for Sow’s penny to drop. Dundee United’s new manager, Mixu Paatelainen, is eager to begin his tenure with a result which could lift the Tayside club off the bottom of the league. Hearts are without a league win since August 22, when they defeated Partick Thistle 3-0 at Tynecastle, and want to recapture that early-season form.
Sow scored the first goal in that win over Thistle whilst playing as a right winger. Although an unorthodox role for a player used to leading the forward line, he isn’t averse to playing there again. “Yeah, if I drop one or two kilos,” he laughs. “I play wherever the manager wants me to play. If we win, I’m happy. You need to do a little bit more running out there, but it’s fine. I think you get a little bit more of the ball.”
He partnered Spanish striker Juanma in a 4-4-2 formation against Kilmarnock in Hearts’ last fixture, which ended in a 1-1 draw. “I like that, Juanma is a good player. It was good to play with him and I think we were a bit unfortunate not to get the three points against Kilmarnock.”
A two-week international break brought some intense training as well as some welcome time off for those Hearts players not on Scotland Under-21 duty. Sow used the opportunity to return to his native Sweden and visit friends and family. “It was a good opportunity for those who need to catch up on their fitness to do that. It’s always nice to clear your head for a few days and come back fresh.”
With a fresh start and some injuries healed, Hearts will hope to regain momentum at Tannadice. They will be without the suspended pair of Callum Paterson and Gavin Reilly, with Jordan McGhee poised to step in at right-back. He was one of several Scotland Under-21 players who performed well in the 0-0 draw with Iceland at Pittodrie on Tuesday.
“I feel we need to find our momentum again after the break,” says Sow. “Dundee United will be a difficult game. They will be up for it but we will be up for it as well. We’re going there to get the points. We just need to fight and compete with them. It will be a good game to play in.”