Some players would crumble to pieces after lashing a penalty-kick into orbit live on national TV at Celtic Park.
Osman Sow reacted coolly. A routine finish and an exquisite outside-of-the-boot flick saw him score twice in his next game – against Livingston on Sunday. Hearts’ Swedish striker doesn’t feel pressure, he just seems to score goals.
Two in the weekend’s 5-0 rout put Sow joint-top goalscorer in the SPFL Championship with five. Only Livingston’s Jordan White and Declan McManus, on loan at Morton from Aberdeen, have scored more in all competitions in Scotland this season. Sow recovered quickly from the distress of missing a penalty at a vital moment against Celtic last Wednesday, with Hearts 1-0 down in the League Cup, and produced the perfect response.
His first goal was a gift from Burton O’Brien’s misplaced backpass, but his second was pure centre-forward’s instinct. Callum Paterson’s cross from the right arrived at pace inside the penalty area as Sow motioned towards it. On the run, he expertly guided the ball into the far corner of the net with one flick of the outside of his left foot. It was Hearts’ fifth goal of a productive afternoon and left his marker Callum Fordyce, a very capable young defender, looking thoroughly bewildered.
Hearts are learning quickly that they can depend on Sow’s instincts and ability. Six goals in nine appearances overall is a fine return from a 24-year-old forward signed as a free agent during the summer. The player has helped his new club climb to the top of the league, yet he doesn’t feel under any strain or burden. Even that gut-wrenching penalty miss didn’t affect his self-belief.
“On the night, I was depressed,” he admitted, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “The next day is a new day and you just want to get back on the scoresheet as soon as possible. Luckily, I did that on Sunday.
“It was in my mind to try and score to put the penalty miss out of my head. You are only as good as your last game and my last game before Sunday wasn’t so good. I wanted the next one to be better so it was great to score two goals.
“I’m not feeling any pressure. I’m a calm and relaxed guy. I don’t feel pressure. I’m just enjoying playing football and having fun. There’s no pressure on me, even though we are top of the league and we want to stay there. If you put too much pressure on yourself, it’s just going to end the wrong way. Just have fun and do what you do.”
Prince Buaben is desperate to prise penalty duties from Sow following his midweek miss, but the giant Swede isn’t for relinquishing anything. “I will hit another penalty, absolutely. You have to step up when the chance is there. We will see what happens because Prince wants to take them as well. He’s in my ear now wanting to get the penalties, but I’ll definitely step up if I get the chance.”
Hearts’ league form indicates they will be serious contenders for automatic promotion. Some are even contemplating whether they could finish the campaign unbeaten. “Of course it’s possible but I don’t want to say that. If we keep working hard, you never know what’s going to happen,” said Sow.
“It’s still early but it’s always better to be the one at the top of the table and not the second team chasing. That way, everything is still in your hands. We have everything in our hands at the moment, so we just need to take it week by week and keep on going.
“Everybody is fighting hard and some games are very difficult. Even against lower teams and part-time teams, it’s still very difficult. You get more chances to score at this level and that suits me.
“We are winning and everybody is happy right now. There is a lot of competition for places and we all have to put in a shift every day to stay in the team. This is a good bunch of lads. The main thing for me is to stay in the team. First, you have to make sure you are playing and then, hopefully, score.”
The concern for Hearts fans will be that Sow’s net-bulging feats attract the preying eyes of a bigger club. He is not on a large salary at Tynecastle, certainly not by English Championship standards, and could potentially be lured away by an attractive offer from down south. Previous experience of English football with Crystal Palace was unpleasant, but he still has ambitions to play at a higher level.
“I want to go as far as I can so I’m just trying to do the best I can every day,” he continued. “There have been ups and downs, but things are going in the right direction for me. It’s my job to be in the box and finish the chances so I try to get on the end of everything. Some go in, some don’t. You just keep going. It’s good to have made some progress. Now I focus on this weekend and hope to put in a better performance after Sunday.”
If he were faced with a decision in future on whether to move on, Sow admits it would be tough to walk away from the unstinting support he has received in Edinburgh. He became an instant hero at Tynecastle with a dramatic winner against Rangers on the opening weekend of the season. That status and the fervour of the Hearts fans has taken him aback.
“I’m focused on what’s happening now. People are friendly here and I like it,” he explained. “The fans are the best fans I’ve ever met. I just want to do well for them. When you play in front of the Hearts fans, you know you have to put in your best performance for them.”