It’s the question every Hearts fan wants answered: Is Osman Sow staying at Tynecastle? The striker’s contract ends in June and he is attracting interest from clubs around Britain. Hearts officials want him to sign a long-term deal but, at 25, Sow is very much the master of his own destiny.
Eleven goals in 26 appearances so far this season is a good return from a player experiencing top-flight Scottish football for the first time. Sow cost nothing when he arrived as a free agent in July 2014 and signed a two-year contract. Having failed to establish himself at Crystal Palace, largely because of injury, he was eager to make a name for himself in Scotland. One Championship title and solid six months in the Premiership later, it is mission accomplished.
Now he must decide where to continue his rejuvenated career. Clubs in Scotland and England view him as something of a coup – a 6ft 4in forward with pace, technique and a goalscoring instinct who is available on a pre-contract agreement. Those attributes make him a highly sought-after commodity and, as such, Hearts’ director of football Craig Levein and head coach Robbie Neilson would love to keep him.
The Evening News spoke exclusively to the amiable Swede and put that very pressing question to him. Will he stay on in Edinburgh or head for pastures new? He doesn’t rule out signing another contract with Hearts, but is in no hurry to make a decision. The possibility of a quick-fire move before the January transfer window closes shouldn’t be discounted, although it looks unlikely at this stage given his suitors know he is free in the summer.
“I’m really enjoying my time here at Hearts. I don’t know what will happen but I’m enjoying my football here at the moment,” said Sow. “I’m really happy with the staff, the players and the fans. This club is a great club. We just need to find a solution for both me and for the club.
“It’s always a possibility [to stay] but we’ll take it as it comes. I’m just trying to enjoy my football. I don’t think too much about stuff like that. When I came to Hearts I was on a mission, just my own mission. As soon as I came to Edinburgh I started to get good feeling for the club and the fans because everybody was so good with me.
“It’s hard because I can’t tell what will happen in the future. As soon as you cross the white line, you need to forget everything and just focus on what you can effect, which is the football side. It doesn’t distract me too much.”
Sow’s growth is simply down to playing regularly. He is not only scoring goals, he is scoring screamers from 25 and 30 yards as both Motherwell and Celtic can testify this season. He is grateful to be at full physical capacity having been injury-free for an extended period, yet he feels there is even more to come.
“I feel stronger and stronger each day. It’s been a good run for me without having any major injuries or anything. I’m just enjoying my football, trying to have fun and get good results. I think I’ve got more to give. I feel in my body that I can produce more and I’m working towards that every day. I’m getting there. Every day is a step in the right direction.”
Ambition drives him more than money, but it is safe to say there will be plenty cash offered to secure his signature.
There is a feeling he would like to see the season out at Hearts. The chance to qualify for Europe through a high Premiership placing was unthinkable as recently as six months ago. Now it is very much on the agenda for everyone at Tynecastle. There is also the added allure of a run in the Scottish Cup if Sow and his colleagues can dispense with Hibs next month.
Beyond that, there remains an outside chance of the player forcing his way into the Sweden squad for the European Championship in France. He is considered a bit of an anomaly in his homeland as a player no-one had heard of and who has appeared almost from nowhere. He played for three minor Swedish clubs plus Dacia Chisinau in Moldova before heading to Britain in 2013. Coaches at the Swedish FA are now monitoring his progress in Scotland with a view to a possible call-up.
Bizarrely, Sow’s reputation is probably stronger in England than Sweden. He spent time on trial at Cardiff City, Brentford and Blackpool before joining Palace. Indeed, the former England midfielder Paul Ince wanted to sign Sow for Blackpool in August 2013 and was confident the deal would go through until Palace gazumped him at the last minute.
Sow is a wanted man again. Hearts can’t match the financial clout of interested clubs in England, or Celtic for that matter. Sow will do well to better the experience he is enjoying in Gorgie at the moment, though.Neilson’s players are high on confidence after thumping in-form Motherwell 6-0 and their giant centre-forward is revelling in the feelgood factor.
“Everybody is happy right now and we are all enjoying the moment,” he smiled. “I think we are starting to come together as a group, we are beginning to understand each other better. We played some good football last season but now there are new players and new characters.
“Sometimes, people find it difficult to change club. Everyone is comfortable with one another now and we all know each other. You are starting to see good results on the pitch. There were six different goalscorers on Saturday and that is always good. We are working hard together every day to make this season as memorable as possible.
“We want to finish as high as possible in the league and to play some good football as well. Hopefully, we can get a good run in the Scottish Cup as well, but we have a tough tie against Hibs. Derbies are always hard.”
Final question: If he could choose what happens at the end of the season when his contract runs out, what would it be? “Hearts to win the league.”