ALIM OZTURK must stay patient as he waits for an opportunity to return to Hearts’ starting line-up.
Head coach Robbie Neilson is considering reinstating his captain for tomorrow night’s league meeting with Dundee United, but that may depend on the fitness of other players.
The Dutch-born centre-back hasn’t played competitively since the League Cup win at Kilmarnock on September 23. He underwent hernia surgery early in October but is now fit again and has been an unused substitute in Hearts’ last three matches.
Neilson stressed Ozturk will regain his place eventually and said he could play him against United at Tynecastle. Arnaud Djoum and Osman Sow are amongst several players nursing niggling injuries and Ozturk is eager to make his comeback after three months out.
“Alim’s just got to be patient. Our two centre-backs, Blazej Augustyn and Igor Rossi, have been great for us recently,” Neilson told the Evening News. “Alim has a huge future at this club and that’s the reason I made him captain. He’s great on the ball and he just has to bide his time, like a few of them. I’ve no doubt Alim will get back into the team and do well for us.”
Asked if he will play tomorrow, Neilson replied: “Possibly. It’s something I’ll look at. We need to look at who is available, first and foremost. There are a few guys carrying some knocks so we’ll see tomorrow and assess the squad then I’ll decide what I’m going to do. Danny Swanson is in the same position as Alim. Billy King got a wee opportunity against Celtic and did well. They all just have to wait their time.”
Gavin Reilly is expected to keep his place in attack with the Spaniard Juanma still suspended. Hearts are keen to return to winning form after four draws and a defeat in their last five matches.
“We’re without a win but we’ve only lost one game in the last five,” Neilson pointed out. “The Motherwell game was probably a write-off because of the weather. I think we should’ve won the Dundee game, then we go to Aberdeen and lose a terrible goal. We drew at St Johnstone because got a man sent off inside thirty minutes.
“If you look at who we’ve played and the circumstances over the last few weeks, then I’m pleased with what we’ve got so far. We’re not an indisciplined team. We’re just a quick team and a physically strong team who can go toe-to-toe with anybody. There’s never an issue with discipline unless it’s somebody hot-headed who loses the plot, which has happened twice this season [Juanma and Juwon Oshaniwa]. They’ve been dealt with.
“Hopefully it doesn’t happen again but, when you play in a passionate team which is so desperate to do well in front of a phenomenal crowd, there’s always going to be energy and things are going to be touch and go and borderline.”