Armand Gnanduillet: The truth about my Hearts 'walkout' and why my time will come
You have to laugh. Sometimes it’s the only way to deal with football’s incessant rumours. Armand Gnanduillet puts the theory into practice when we meet at Riccarton.
Frustrated with his game time and goal tally so far this season, by his own admission he lacks patience as a substitute. Yet people suggesting he walked out on Hearts gave him a right chortle. The French striker is simply biding his time.
Saturday’s visit of Motherwell offers another chance to add to his solitary goal from seven appearances this term. He may need to accept a place on the bench again, which is where the frustration stems from.
The giant Gnanduillet possesses some unique attributes and could probably cause carnage around the Scottish Premiership if he really wanted to. Getting a chance is difficult with Liam Boyce in prolific scoring form at Tynecastle Park.
Perhaps that sparked talk of Gnanduillet walking out in the huff back in August. The player still laughs at the hearsay, explaining that somebody was clearly embellishing the truth somewhat.
“This story was funny. Anybody can tell a story about something they saw but they don't really know what happened,” he grinned. “We had a [bounce] game and I had new boots, so I just took my boots off as I walked off because my feet were sore.
"The manager told me before I would play 60 minutes and he was at the game. I was laughing when I saw the stories but it just went over my head. I’m good here. We have good facilities, the city is great, we are doing well. The only thing missing for me is putting the ball in the net.
Food and water
“The striker position is very hard. One day you can be the king and the next you miss a tap-in so you are nobody. I know this. I’m happy. I have food and water at home. I know life is hard for some people. I’m playing football. That’s nothing.
“What people say about me doesn’t bother me to be honest. I just need to focus on what I do well, which is playing football and scoring goals.”
The Hearts manager Robbie Neilson rates Gnanduillet highly and is sensitive to the player’s desire for more minutes. “I would say it’s a good relationship. He trusts me and I trust my ability,” said Gnanduillet.
“The players know I can score goals. I only scored one league goal but I know the next one is coming. The manager told me to keep working in training and be ready.
“It’s a bit frustrating for me because the most important thing is the squad. If I have to stay on the bench it’s hard to take, but I will be ready to come on and give my best.
“My time will come. I had a very bad time before I came here. I didn’t really play in Turkey but I feel good here. I just need to be patient. Sometimes it’s hard because I’m not too patient.
“When I am on the bench I can see the game and see the opponents’ weaknesses. Boycie has been scoring goals but I know I will play and I will score. I just need to be ready for it.”
Unbeaten in seven league matches, Hearts’ strong start to the campaign as a newly-promoted team has been noted around the country. Victory over an in-form Motherwell side could potentially take them top of the Premiership.
Gnanduillet outlines ambitions for the team to push forward more. “It’s the same mood as last season but now we are in the top division and the fans are back. It’s a pleasure to be at this club. I think we have done well, we are still unbeaten, but personally I think we can do more,” he said.
Step up a level
“I’m a striker so I like to go forward. I think we can all step up a level, passing the ball, playing forward instead of backwards, crossing the ball and having a shot. That’s what I mean. I think most people will not disagree with me.
“In the game against Ross County, we drew 2-2 but we could easily have won 4-0 or 4-2. I think we had nearly 20 shots so we can be a bit more nasty on the field, stay together as a group. I think it will come.
“We draw some games but other teams draw as well. That’s why I’m saying we need to step up a level. If we win games we get more points and we can advance on other teams.
“Saturday is one of those big games you want to play in. I saw Motherwell play a friendly game here against Millwall and they have some good players.”
Suggestions of European qualification are downplayed by the Hearts management at such an early stage in the campaign. Gnanduillet doesn’t mind voicing his own opinion on the subject.
“I was talking to Jig [Lee McCulloch, Neilson’s assistant] and I said: ‘You might think I’m crazy, but for me we have a big chance to finish in the top three.’ I don’t know if the other players are on the same page as me but I don’t set myself limits.
“I think we need this mentality. Celtic and Rangers have been struggling at times, we beat Celtic at home and we will play Rangers this month. We need to take our chances and we have a chance to do something really good. Why not dream bigger?
“We may not finish champions but I think we can definitely finish in the top three.”