Teenage Hearts striker Aidan Keena must show patience at first-team level, but manager Craig Levein today acknowledged the Irishman is a natural goalscorer.
Keena won’t play every week despite scoring his first goal for the Edinburgh club against Auchinleck Talbot on Sunday. He followed up by firing a hat-trick in Monday’s 5-0 reserve win over Morton.
Levein is delighted with the 19-year-old’s work ethic since recalling him midway through a season-long loan at Dunfermline. He will be used at times between now and the end of the season as the Hearts coaching staff try to keep all their forwards happy.
Keena is competing alongside Steven Naismith, Steven MacLean, Uche Ikpeazu, David Vanecek and Craig Wighton for game time. Levein explained to the Evening News how he plans to use the youngster. “Aidan will get opportunities but they won’t be every week. We have a stronger squad this year,” he said. “It’s not quite the same as it was last year so the younger ones have to be a little bit more patient.
“Aidan is a goal-poacher. He has an eye for goal. He shows composure in the penalty box, which you saw with his goal on Sunday. I’ve been pleased with him, that’s why we brought him back from Dunfermline. I was thrilled seeing him get his first goal. He is a hard-working, honest laddie.”
Other loanees Ryan Edwards, Bobby Burns and Andy Irving also returned to Hearts during the January window. Keena has been quickest to impose himself in the first team.
“They are all in different positions. It’s generally injuries that lead to people getting opportunities,” added Levein. “Aidan got onto the bench on Sunday because we were playing with two strikers. I need to strikers on the bench because of that.
“When players get an opportunity, they have to make their performance significant enough that it sticks in my head. So the next time I need somebody to play that position, I already have evidence they can do it.
“I thought Keena did well on Sunday. He also did well when he played against Dundee a few weeks back. He had three opportunities in that game and normally he would take one of those.
“On Sunday he had one, which wasn’t really an opportunity to start with because he worked it for himself. They are all champing at the bit to play.
“They’re all in a hurry to be in the first team but I only have 11 spots.”