Captivating Hearts star Liam Boyce's underestimations, owning performances and Euan Henderson qualities
In Liam Boyce, Hearts have a forward who is ready for the club’s Premiership return.
Summer transfer plans will likely be ramped up now the club have secured the Scottish Championship title.
One area of the pitch less pressing than others is the forward area. Armand Gnanduillet has shown enough to suggest he is going to be a more than adequate striker and then there is Boyce.
The Northern Irish striker, who has 50 Premiership goals in 106 appearances, has been a captivating watch this season.
He was at his very best during Hearts’ 6-0 thrashing of Alloa Athletic on Friday evening, netting a hat-trick to take him on to 16 for the season, and collecting the man of the match award.
Curiously, he wasn’t fielded as a No.9, but as a No.10 in a 3-4-1-2 system and, with Euan Henderson and Gnanduillet ahead, it suited him perfectly.
However, he was keen to share the adulation with particular praise for Henderson.
“I think it’s about six or seven [career hat-tricks], I’m not 100 per cent sure,” Boyce, whose partner recently gave birth to son Ziggy, said.
"It was brilliant but I think more importantly it was a good performance.
"You kind of knew after ten minutes we were playing well and were solid at the back. I thought they were unbelievable and big Soapy after so long off I thought he was brilliant.
“Hendo is brilliant, you can see his pace and I think he needs to believe in himself a bit more. He’s brilliant on the training pitch, he comes and asks you questions and advice and stuff.
"You saw with the penalty, he needs to believe in himself and you saw that, he was running and taking on people to win the penalty. It set him up and he got his goal in the end and he deserved it.
"Having someone with that pace and big Armand with that strength, it makes it easy for me. It leaves me more space.”
Underestimated the Championship
Many were expecting Hearts to have wrapped up the league title long before now, but Boyce followed Neilson and goalkeeper Craig Gordon in expressing the difficulty of the league, something he underestimated.
The 30-year-old also acknowledged the standard of performance hasn’t been good enough lately and understands fan frustration.
“At the start of the season we were flying and scoring six, fives and fours every week and you think it’s easy,” Boyce, who has a 20 goal target,said.
“When you come up against teams who are not doing so well they set up to defend. It’s just the way it is and I think I underestimated it as well.
"There are high expectations and we know the fans always want more and they’re totally within their right.
"As footballers we want more, when there are questions on the gaffer, it should be us that are questioned.
"It’s us on the pitch with our performances and we know how hard the gaffer works and we went out there to prove a point.”