Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson insists the best is yet to come from this season’s foreign recruits.
Igor Rossi, Juanma, Blazej Augustyn, Juwon Oshaniwa and Arnaud Djoum have all arrived at Tynecastle from abroad over the last six months and established themselves as key members of a side which is sitting third in the Premiership.
However, Hearts’ management acknowledge that the overseas signings are still not firing on all cylinders. At last week’s annual general meeting, director of football Craig Levein asked supporters for patience as the latest members of the club’s foreign legion continue to adapt to a new environment both on and off the pitch.
Neilson expanded on this point today with the Evening News, when he explained that he expects plenty fluctuations in form throughout their first seasons in Scotland. “For all the players that have come in from abroad, it’s been a period of adapting to life in Scotland,” he said. “We’re still to see the best of them all. I expect Juanma to get better, I expect Juwon to get better and I expect Blazej to get better. I still think there’s more to come from Arnaud as well because he’s still got a wee bit to go in terms of fitness. He missed the whole of pre-season
“I think out of them all, Igor’s probably adapted the best. He’s come in and been really steady. These guys will have highs and lows though. That’s all part of coming into a new culture and a new club. We can’t expect them all to blaze through the season at 100 per cent.”
While Rossi, Augustyn, Juanma and Djoum have won supporters over reasonably quickly, the jury appears to still be out on Oshaniwa, with many observers surprised that the left-back went straight back into the starting line-up at the expense of homegrown defender Jordan McGhee upon returning from injury recently. Neilson, however, has no doubts that the Nigerian internationalist will soon start to show why Hearts were so excited about the prospect of signing him in the summer.
“I’ve been pleased with Juwon,” said the head coach. “He hit the ground running at first then we’ve had to manage him through it over the past few months. Juanma had a spell like that as well about six weeks ago where we had to look after him. The last couple of weeks, when the weather’s been really bad, have been quite difficult for Juwon to adapt to. He’s come from Israel, where the football’s a lot slower and the weather’s a lot better. Here he’s had to get used to the rough and tumble. The best is definitely still to come from him.”