Hearts assess Kyosuke Tagawa's situation with a clear message for the Japanese forward

The Japanese forward is seen as a long-term project by the Tynecastle management

Kyosuke Tagawa's impact at Hearts has been minimal thus far, but there is no sign of the Edinburgh club giving up on the Japanese forward. Riccarton coaching staff are prepared to show patience and help Tagawa improve after 14 appearances and one goal to date in Scotland.

The 25-year-old signed a three-year contract last summer after Hearts paid FC Tokyo a six-figure transfer fee for his services. Head coach Steven Naismith is keen to see progress beyond the glimpses Tagawa has shown in a maroon shirt this season, and acknowledges the need for all concerned to do better.

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Ankle and hamstring injuries hindered Tagawa earlier in the campaign, plus he missed Hearts' Premiership win over Motherwell last weekend with a bout of concussion. It remains to be seen if he is recovered sufficiently for this week's visit to Rangers. If so, a place among the substitutes is the best he can hope for.

He appeared as a second-half replacement in the Scottish Cup against Airdrie earlier this month and his performances hitherto suggest he has yet to properly adapt to Scottish football. The Edinburgh News revealed last week that there is some transfer interest in Tagawa from clubs in Europe and Asia. Hearts won't sell him off cheaply and are working to progress areas of his game.

"It's difficult for players who come in from different continents," Naismith told the Edinburgh News. "There is the expectation and demand. Scottish football has some similarities to other leagues but there are also ways in which it is unique with the demands you need to have as a player.

"It was good getting him 45 minutes against Airdrie. Looking at that, I think he is assured in a lot of his touches but I would say he is still being slightly safe. There was an ask of our forwards to get slightly wider against Airdrie, but recognising that moment when we have the ball and 100 per cent possession, he just plays his game. I felt he didn't do that.

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"It's probably my mistake in terms of getting that point across to him before he goes on the pitch. I felt he found himself in the wider areas too much when we had the ball against Airdrie, but I would say that's more my mistake than his."

Lawrence Shankland's ruthless goalscoring form renders him an automatic choice at centre-forward at Tynecastle Park. Other attackers must fit in elsewhere. Tagawa has yet to settle in a specific role but Hearts are acutely aware of the need for improvement in various areas.

"The things that have hampered Kyosuke are Shanks' performances and the way we have played at times," explained Naismith. "You can see Shanks, Alan Forrest and Kenneth [Vargas] have all progressed and staked a claim to start games. That has hampered Kyosuke.

"On top of that, we have needed more from him in the games he has played. There is also the time to settle in as well. You see in training that he has got good qualities and he has areas where he does need to improve, especially being in Scottish football.

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"I think it's a mixed bag all-round. Everything needs to be slightly better. The amount of minutes he gets needs to be better, what he is doing in games needs to be better, and also a bit of time is needed as well. That is where we sit with Kyosuke at the moment.

"He works hard every day, he is enthusiastic to learn. We will see from now until the summer what happens. Obviously, it is coming to the stage of the season where there is a lot riding on every game. He is part of the squad and we need to make sure he gets minutes if we can. Also, he needs to show that he is the guy we think is going to come on or start the games."

The aforementioned three-year contract provides necessary time. Tagawa was never viewed as an 'instant-hit signing' who would arrive with a blitz of pace and goals. He is seen more as a project who was always likely to need understanding and persistence from coaches.

"He was never signed as somebody we needed to come in and who must hit the ground running. If you looked at our squad and the players we had - like [Liam] Boycie and Shanks - they were safer bets. We knew we had those guys who are experienced and understand the game.

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"That would allow Kenneth and Kyosuke to come in, maybe have time to settle and get some minutes. With injuries and things, there have been different strains on the squad but we have managed that well. Kyosuke was never going to be one who we signed and go: 'He better come in and hit the ground running, and if he hasn't done it within two months then he isn't good enough.'"

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