Hearts manager Craig Levein has given his opinions on each of Hearts’ new signings so far ...
ZDENEK ZLAMAL (GOALKEEPER)
Unknown and untested in Britain, the 32-year-old Czech goalkeeper will succeed Jon McLaughlin.
Hearts invoked a clause in his Fastav Zlin contract to sign him for free and Levein believes he will cope with assuming the mantle of record-breaker McLaughlin.
“He’s an experienced goalkeeper and that’s what I was looking for. That’s what Jon did for us and I had similar thoughts when I was looking to fill this position. You just need to look at Zdenek’s career to see he has experienced a lot of things.
“From that point of view, I’m quite relaxed about his strengths and what he will bring to the team. It’s a tall order to follow what Jon did but I’m sure he’s got the calmness that’s required, plus the ability and the experience to do that.”
BEN GARUCCIO (LEFT-BACK)
Finding a permanent and reliable left-back has vexed several Hearts managers in recent years but Garuccio may be the long-awaited answer.
He arrives on a three-year contract aged only 22 and with a solid reputation from the Australian club, Adelaide United.
Levein wanted Garuccio because he is similar in style to last season’s loanee from Manchester United, Demetri Mitchell.
“He’s an attacking full-back, no doubt about that. With us having Christophe Berra on that side of the defence, I feel quite relaxed about our left-back or left wing-back being someone who can provide width and crossing options for us.
“Ben’s stats on crossing impressed me the most. He has a really high percentage of crosses into the box and that is something we need to do more of. I’m confident he will fit in well.”
RYAN EDWARDS (MIDFIELDER)
This was a relatively surprising signing by Hearts given Edwards suffered relegation with Partick Thistle last season.
However, the seeds of this move were not sown recently. In fact, that Hearts manager first took note of the midfielder a number of years ago.
When Thistle went down and Edwards activated a relegation release clause in his cotnract, Levein moved quickly to bring the player to Tynecastle Park on a two-year deal.
“I know he has been playing in a number of different positions, but I remember seeing him playing for Reading three or four years ago. I liked him then even though I wasn’t there to watch him specifically.
“He has a huge amount of energy and I think that’s something we need in the team. He brings something we don’t have at this minute in time.”
BOBBY BURNS (MIDFIELDER)
Teenagers are a prized commodity at Riccarton and Burns is one of Northern Ireland’s top prospects from Glenavon.
“He’s been playing part-time in Northern Ireland so he might not be too well-known.
“He’s a little bit different to most of the other new boys in that he’s more of a longer-term prospect. He came over and trained with us and we were really pleased. He wasn’t out of place.
“Bobby sees this as an opportunity to play first-team football at a higher level, depending on how he does. If it comes down to determination, then I’m sure he’ll be playing first-team football at Hearts pretty quickly.
“He’s a bit of an all-rounder – a good player who has played a number of positions. I see him as a midfielder for us. He will bring good balance because he’s left-sided.”
STEVEN MACLEAN (STRIKER)
At 35, MacLean’s move to Hearts from St Johnstone also raised eyebrows. Levein is knows what he is getting in the striker.
“He’s a seven-out-of-ten guy. You know what he is going to do and he is good at it. Pace isn’t something he has ever relied on. He has used his brain more than anything. He had serious knee problems when he was young and it was hard for him to forge a career.
“To still be playing at this age is a testament to him considering the problems he had. It’s that kind of guts and resilience I like about Steven. He will bring a toughness to the team. He isn’t 6ft 4in but he’s a tough boy.
“I was looking at the bench last season and not seeing anybody who would give me a confidence when I wanted to change things. With Steven, if he’s on the bench, I’d feel pretty good about putting him on at any time.”
OLLY LEE (MIDFIELDER)
Officials at Luton Town didn’t hide their dismay when Hearts contacted them to say Lee was in talks about a pre-contract move.
The midfielder, son of former England internationalist Rob, has improved hugely in recent years since Levein first saw him.
“I like his story. He has grown up at big football clubs and done his education in the game at a high level. He came out of West Ham and Birmingham and ended up playing at Luton week in and week out. I believe that improvement only starts in players when they are playing regularly every week.
“In his three years at Luton, from when he first went there to what he was doing at the tail end of last season, I’ve seen a big improvement in him. Now, the challenge for him is to continue that improvement at a higher level.
“I wouldn’t have brought him to Hearts if I didn’t think he was more than capable of that. I’m looking forward to seeing him in our midfield.”
UCHE IKPEAZU (STRIKER)
‘Unpredictable’ is probably the best adjective to describe the former Cambridge United forward.
He is 6ft 3in tall and an absolute brute of a man who is expected to bring a different dimension to the Hearts attack next season. Levein wants him to be consistent in maroon.
“Uche is probably different to any other player in Scotland just now. He is a big lad. He is more of a target man who is going to hold the ball in, rather than a striker who will win an enormous amount of headers.
“He is progressing well but he needs to refine his play a little bit and add more consistency to what he does. If he can do that, then he will become very difficult to play against. Again, he is something different that we don’t have. I feel he can bring a quality to the team that we don’t have at the moment.”
JAKE MULRANEY (WINGER)
Mulraney joined Hearts from Inverness Caledonian Thistle in a swap deal for Angus Beith.
An Irish winger with blistering pace, he is stepping up a division to work under Levein.
The manager wants to utilise Mulraney’s pace after seeing his team lack creativity in wide areas for much of last season.
Performing to a stable level on a regular basis is one of the challenges for the 22-year-old.
“He has some really good assets, pace being the standout one. If we can harness that pace and creativity then we will have a good player.
“Jake just needs to become a little bit more consistent and add a final product to his play going forward. Then I think he will be a big asset to us.”