Hearts’ Juanma warned about opponents targeting him

Juanma has been a target for defenders since he arrived in Scotland. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
Juanma has been a target for defenders since he arrived in Scotland. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
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Juanma returns from suspension for Hearts today with a warning that he will be targeted by opponents trying to force him to lose control. He served a two-game ban for headbutting St Johnstone’s David Wotherspoon and head coach Robbie Neilson knows people will now aim to wind the Spaniard up.

Neilson ordered Juanma to improve his discipline following his red card at McDiarmid Park. He has also been booked nine times in 21 games since this season. He is expected to start on the substitutes’ bench against Kilmarnock today.

“People have been doing that [winding him up] since the first game of the season,” said Neilson. “There was all the stuff splashed over the back pages about him being a typical foreigner. He was in the headlines right away but he has to handle that, he’s at a big club now.

“He realises that whoever he plays against is going to target him. Referees will be looking for that, we’ll be looking for that, so it’s important he accepts it and handles it. He’s here to score goals, that’s it. The only way he can answer things and get the right headlines is by scoring goals. I think he understands that and he’ll do it.

“Hopefully he does it with his feet by scoring goals, not getting involved and doing silly things. We spoke to him recently and showed him videos of some of the stuff he has been involved in recently. When he actually sat down and looked at it I think now he realises he needs to cut it out.”

Neilson also wants fans to stay patient with Nigerian left-back Juwon Oshaniwa, who has endured criticism for some erratic defending.

“He has real quality. He plays the game the way I like it,” said the head coach. “He will do some great things and he is just adapting to life in Scotland. He knows there will be a lot of pressure put on him as soon as he gets the ball – it is just picking the right time to pass it or put it up the line, or in behind.

“He is a good player. He has pace and quality and good power. He is just finding it a bit difficult to adapt at the moment, similar to Juanma. He is not used to playing on a pitch like Wednesday night where it has been battering down with rain for three weeks.

“I speak to him all the time. It is just about being patient. We are bringing these guys in to try and develop them. We don’t get players in that are finished articles. They need developed.”