GAVIN REILLY insists he can fill the void in the Hearts forward line following Soufian El Hassnaoui’s injury. The Dutch-Moroccan is out for four months with a torn posterior cruciate ligament and Reilly stressed today he is ready to answer any call from head coach Robbie Neilson.
The 22-year-old arrived from Queen of the South only last month and faces stiff competition for a place in the Hearts forward line. Juanma, Osman Sow and Gary Oliver are all fighting for game time, as was El Hassnaoui until injury struck at the weekend.
His absence is a blow for Neilson, not to mention the player himself. Reilly offered a sympathetic view of his colleague’s predicament, but explained he is confident of scoring goals if given the chance.
“It’s such a shame for Soufian because he had injury problems last season and now he’s got another one,” said Reilly. “I wish him a speedy recovery but if I get my chance I’ll hopefully be able to take it. We have a lot of strength in depth throughout the squad, there are plenty of boys who can come in and do a job. So I wish Soufian all the best and hope he’s back soon, but if the manager needs me to play I’m ready for it. I believe I can take my chance if I get it.”
Reilly is comfortable in the centre-forward role or in behind a main striker – both positions which El Hassnaoui favoured. “I can play as a No.10 ten and also as an out-and-out striker, scoring goals. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens when the season starts. I’m confident of scoring at Premiership level,” he said.
“I don’t want to big myself up too much but I scored against St Johnstone last season and also against Rangers. Hopefully, if I’m given the chance and the opportunities come my way, then I’m confident I’ll score. I want to hit the ground running.”
Hearts begin their Scottish Premiership campaign on Sunday week at home to St Johnstone and Reilly underlined the need for realistic aims at the start. “We don’t want to aim too high but the team came up from the Championship after doing really well,” he explained.
“If we can get into the top six it would be great but, after training with the lads, I don’t think it’s out of the question for us to get one of the European places. But that’s a long way off, all we want to do is get off to a good start against St Johnstone and then try for the top six. That’s the first target we’ve set and if we achieve that then we will look further.
“Pre-season is good for getting the fitness up but everyone is looking forward to the first game of the season now. The excitement is building because it’s just around the corner. I’ve enjoyed it. Like everyone going into a new job I was a bit anxious to start with but the lads have welcomed me.
“The intensity of training is a lot higher than I have been used to but I have settled in well. I’m 22 and this is the first time I have been away from home. I’ve been living with my sister for the last two months but I am moving into a flat of my own soon. So I am getting new experiences football-wise and also life experiences too.”