Armand Gnanduillet urged to take Hearts chance as Robbie Neilson eyes January reinforcement
Robbie Neilson says every minute his Hearts players spend on the pitch is an audition.
But the manager knows that it is tough for some of them to shine if they have been gathering dust in the wings.
Which is why he was happy with the performance from Armand Gnanduillet at McDiarmid Park on Wednesday, even if the rangy Frenchman did fluff a couple of lines.
A player who believes in his own ability, he has had to wait, not-so-patiently according to those who are close enough to him to feel the heat of his desire to get on the pitch and lead the hunt for goals, for his turn to lead the line.
With Liam Boyce in such good form this season and riding high in the Premiership scoring charts, there has been limited opportunities for the 29-year-old, who joined Hearts in January and will have to review his contract at the end of the current campaign.
He has played in eight of the capital side’s 11 Premiership matches this term, but he has been included in the starting line-up just twice. The first was in the 2-2 draw with Ross County in September, the second was Wednesday, when a 1-1 stalemate in Perth allowed Celtic to leapfrog the Gorgie outfit but kept the unbeaten run going and the club in the chase.
This afternoon they are in Aberdeen and, with Boyce still out with a tight calf, Gnanduillet will again spearhead the attack.
“Boycey won’t make it but Armand did really well at St Johnstone, I was really pleased with him,” said Neilson. “He led the line well, and other than getting a goal he did everything for us, so I was happy with him.”
While the positive start to the season is worth celebrating, the Hearts boss acknowledges that the former Blackpool striker, like several others, has struggled to get game time as a consequence.
“He’s had to be patient, but Boycey has been scoring goals, so he has had to wait his time. There are a few boys like that, you know? It’s part of football. But now he has to take his chance.
“We’ve been quite harsh with him in that he’s not played a lot of games and we chuck him in and expect him to be bang at it but he’s played 30 minutes then 90, and we’re hopeful that he’ll get more game time now.
“Some players need two games to get going, some need five. When I was a player I needed six or seven. Armand has that opportunity now, he needs to go and take it.”
But, the Tynecastle boss warned that no-one should be getting too comfortable, especially in the forward areas, as he looks to further enhance his options in the January transfer window.
“We’d still like to get another attacker in, whether it’s a wide player or a striker. You always need that in January to give the team a lift.
“It’s important for everyone to show what they can do. Every game is an audition, every window there’s pressure on you because we might be bringing other players in.
“So for me it doesn’t matter if you have three years or six months [on their contract], you’ve got to be at it in every game.”