Eligible to play international football for both Denmark and Ghana, Danny Amankwaa joins Hearts with serious ambitions.
He has represented Denmark at every youth level up to under-21 and knows rejuvenating his career at Tynecastle could lead to senior caps.
The 23-year-old winger is in Scotland for a “fresh start” after Achilles and knee injuries hindered his progress at formative club FC Copenhagen. He arrived on a free transfer and signed an 18-month contract hoping to establish himself in the Hearts team, showcase his pace and creativity, and eventually progress to the international stage.
As a Dane born in Lundby with Ghanaian parentage, Amankwaa can play for both nations. Hearts will hope to help him catch the eye of one or both if he avoids further injury troubles. “I can play for either Denmark or Ghana and every player wants to play international football one day,” he said.
“This is a fresh start for me as I needed to come out of Denmark. I needed to show myself in another country and show how good I am. It has been tough mentally as I had three injuries and was out for six months at a time. I did my Achilles and the miniscus on my knee and my cartilage.
“It was difficult but I had my family and good friends round about me to help. I am hungry to make up for lost time now. Maybe people do not believe in me any more and I want to show that I am a good player and even better now.
“I want a lot of game time and I want to score goals and assist the team. I know I am a very good player. I know I have had some setbacks but now I am more clever since I came back.
“I am much smarter now especially in duals. I am up to the challenge and can cope with the physical demands of Scottish football. I could have gone to other clubs in Denmark but I wanted to make a fresh start.”
Amankwaa is in the Hearts squad for this afternoon’s Ladbrokes Premiership match with Motherwell in Gorgie. He insists he is ready and able for the task after extensive talks with manager Craig Levein.
“I was talking to the manager, he has made a plan for me and I feel that it is a good plan. I want to play some games in Scotland and then hopefully move on again,” he continued.
“I have also watched DVDs of the Hearts-Celtic game and the cup match against Hibs and they were really good. I am ready to play against Motherwell if selected.
“The manager believed in me and I want to repay his faith. I am so happy that the manager has seen my qualities and I want to show him and the Hearts fans that I am worth it.”
Amankwaa is the kind of project which quite appeals to Levein – a young player who has lost his way but who could yet be nurtured into something of a gem. Copenhagen gave their blessing for the winger to leave for nothing after his run of misfortune.
However, it wasn’t too long ago major European clubs were clamouring for a look at Amankwaa. “I had a trial at Chelsea eight years ago and I had the chance to go to other clubs in England,” he recalled. “I trained with the Chelsea Under-17 youth team. That was a long time ago but hopefully I can still reach those levels and I may get back there one day.
“I am confident and just looking forward to showing everybody how good I am. I don’t know much but I do know that Brian Laudrup played for Rangers. I know he was really good and hopefully I can do the same.”
Levein is excited by Amankwaa’s speed after admitting Hearts needed more pace in the side. “He is quick. He can play on either flank or in the No.10 position,” said the manager. “Part of the thing that appealed to me was that he can do three different things. I don’t know if he can play as an out-and-out striker, but he can play in behind. So he can do quite a lot of things, and that is a good position to be in, having somebody who can shift about. He doesn’t feel awkward playing in any of these places.
“The description fits Jamie Walker, being able to play in those three positions, but Danny’s not like Jamie Walker. He is a different type of player. He’s got good technique and he’s imaginative but he has searing pace. He is really quick.
“I’ve said for a while that we need to get more pace into the team. Demi [Mitchell] has come in and helped with that at left-back. In fact, I would imagine we have one of the quickest back lines in the league. Connor Randall has good pace, so have John Souttar and Christophe Berra. They are all really quick.”
Levein also agreed with Amankwaa’s sentiment that he is here with a point to prove.
“I don’t want anybody in the dressing room that causes any unnecessary grief. I don’t want it to be sterile of course. I want it to be a happy place. He is not going to come in and do anything to the dressing room. I don’t think anybody could just now, with the people we have got in there. But I still want to have people who are serious about their football. I think he has got a bit to prove.”