Following an extended summer break due to last month’s World Cup play-off exploits with Australia, Rowles is due to report to Riccarton on Thursday for the first time. He has been recruited to fill the left-sided centre-back role this season.
Manager Robbie Neilson explained to the Evening News that extensive due diligence was done on the 24-year-old before Hearts agreed a fee to sign him from Central Coast Mariners. Their plan is to use him on the left of a back three, or as a left-sided centre-back in a four-man defence.
“We are delighted to get him first and foremost,” said Neilson. “We watched a lot of Kye and spoke to a lot of people in Australia about him. The feedback was all good. He is playing in the national team now and going to a World Cup.
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“He is a really good defender in one-against-one situations, very composed on the ball with good athleticism. He gives us real balance being a left-sided centre-half so I think he will do well for us.
“We had Stephen Kingsley playing that position and he will continue to be there so it’s good competition for places. We have a squad that enables us to rotate people in and out.
“Andy Halliday can play left-back if needed and Alex Cochrane played a lot of games there last season. With the way we play, we needed a left-sided player in there so we are pleased to get Kye.”
Rowles and Nathaniel Atkinson were given extra time off after helping Australia reach the World Cup. Neilson hopes that pair will be joined by Hearts midfielder Cammy Devlin in the Socceroos squad for Qatar.
“All three of our Australian players will be desperate to try and get in that squad. Rowles and Atkinson are already in and will want to maintain that but Cammy is desperate to get a place as well.
“That gives them a carrot to work really hard and play well for us to try and make it to Qatar. Playing European football raises your stock because it’s big games. For us, it’s brilliant to have guys who could be going to a World Cup.”