Craig Levein has backed Hearts’ marquee summer signing Kyle Lafferty to ignite over the coming weeks.
The much-hyped Northern Irishman has scored six goals since signing a two-year contract with the Tynecastle club in June, although only two of those have come in the Premiership.
Levein has been encouraged by the way Lafferty has settled in at Hearts and senses that, after showing glimpses of his quality in the Betfred Cup and scoring in each of his last two starts in the league, the 30-year-old former Rangers and Norwich City striker is ready to start making his presence felt on a consistent basis.
“I’ve been really pleased with Kyle but you have to remember he’s still getting up to speed,” the Hearts manager told the Evening News.
“He hasn’t played a lot of football in the last couple of years – he’s probably played more for Northern Ireland than he has for his club.
“He’s a great character and a really good lad to have about the place. He’s worked ever so hard in training and when he’s played, he’s done well – I’ve been happy with him. He’s been a good addition, but there’s still a lot more to come from him. A month from now, he’ll be a different animal altogether.”
Lafferty returned to the starting line-up to play alongside Esmael Goncalves in attack in the 2-1 win over Hamilton last weekend after dropping to the bench for the goalless draw against Aberdeen at BT Murrayfield a fortnight ago. Levein is keen to see the pair forge a partnership in the long term, but the manager explained that, with Hearts currently facing an arduous run of away games, there may be times when he opts not to play his two main strikers.
“Playing Kyle and Isma as a two going forward is something we’ve discussed and we gave them a run out together at Hamilton last week,” said Levein. “Developing a partnership there is very much at the forefront of my mind, but, particularly just now when we’ve got a lot of away games, I’m not always convinced that we need two strikers. Last week I felt we did, and it worked well for us, but there are no hard and fast rules regarding that.”