Exclusive: Orestis Kiomourtzoglou addresses his Hearts performances and makes his aims clear
He loves city life in Edinburgh with his Dutch Mrs and their dog. Gradually, Orestis Kiomourtzoglou is adapting to Scottish life, now he wants to make a greater impact on the football.
The German midfielder gave a candid interview to the Evening News as he sets about improving personal performance levels five months into his Hearts career. He has taken time to suss out the cinch Premiership’s idiosyncrasies and now feels more comfortable.
There is natural frustration within the player after just one start and three substitute appearances in Hearts’ ten games since the World Cup break. Kiomourtzoglou is realistic enough to accept that a ten-game unbeaten run prior to Wednesday’s defeat by Rangers meant he could not complain too much.
The message for Hearts supporters is that they have yet to see him at his best. “I think my first few games here were quite okay but not my best performances. There is a gap between my performance now and the top for me. I can improve,” he said. “Every minute I get on the pitch, I get closer to it. I hope I will show a better performance soon.
“As a footballer, you are never happy with how you play. If I come home and I say, ‘Oh, today was a good game and I did everything good,’ then I forgot about this mistake and that mistake. You have to improve yourself and be really hard on yourself to get better every day.
“I have not seen many fans or spoken much. I’m not a guy who is on social media a lot so I’m not reading the comments and messages. If you win, everything is good. If you lose and play bad, everything is bad. Saturday is another possibility. I have not really had a lot of talking with fans so far.
“If the team is winning then I’m happy. I think I show the coaches that I can play in the team. I try everything in training. If I come in and get my minutes, I try to play as good as possible. I always try to use my chance.”
A Munch-born German of Greek descent, Kiomourtzoglou doesn’t attempt to apportion any blame elsewhere for his recent bit-part role. The responsibility to force his way into Hearts’ starting line-up rests squarely on his own shoulders. The experienced Robert Snodgrass has become an automatic starter in central midfield when fit due to his exemplary recent form, so ‘Kio’ finds himself competing with Cammy Devlin, Jorge Grant and Andy Halliday for the other slot.
If there is more to come, understanding local dialect can only help. Kiomourtzoglou’s native tongue is German, he also communicates in Dutch with his partner and holds an excellent command of English. Scottish is something else entirely.
“It’s been a long time since I moved here so now it feels like home,” he said. “I am good with my team-mates, I understand things better in the dressing room, and also I am getting used to the Scottish accent. The first few weeks were quite hard, as always, but I have had enough time. Now it’s up to me to show that I am here, finally.
“Scottish football is very fast: Win the ball, get to the box. There is aggression, tackling, running, all the basics. At the end, if you win then everybody is happy. For me, the beginning was maybe about adapting to Scottish football and how fast the games are. I feel good now when I play.”
Off the pitch, he couldn’t be happier. “I’m here with my Mrs. It’s really lovely in Edinburgh, the city is really nice. There is a lot of traffic but I come from Munich so I am used to it. I think it’s normal in a city this size. We have a dog and we have a lot of nice surroundings in our area with nice views. I feel really at home in Scotland.”
Kiomourtzoglou enjoyed a rare start for Hearts in Sunday’s goalless draw at Livingston and was a half-time substitute against Rangers. By the time he entered the fray, the Glasgow club already held a comfortable 2-0 lead as Hearts’ undefeated ten-match sequence was brought to an end in disappointing fashion.
“We had a really good run but all good runs must stop sometime. Rangers are a really good team and we want to compare ourselves to them,” said the player. “Wednesday was not good enough. It showed us how good they are and what we need to improve.
“Now we move on to the next game against Dundee United and this is the good thing in football. Wednesday was frustrating and also Thursday but then it’s focus on the next game. It’s another possibility to show the fans and ourselves that we are better than what we saw on Wednesday.”
Another start for Kiomourtzoglou this weekend isn’t out of the question. Manager Robbie Neilson has noticed measured improvement in the midfielder of late. Perhaps it is only natural that patience was required after Hearts paid £350,000 to catapult him from Dutch second division club Heracles Almelo to the upper echelons of the Scottish Premiership.
“Kio and I have spoken,” explained Neilson. “When he came in initially, he was coming from the Dutch league and it’s a bit slower over there. It’s not quite 100 miles an hour like it is here. I think he is starting to adapt to it and, when he came on against Rangers, I thought he did well. He gave us some energy and a couple of good switches of play.”