Craig Halkett believes Ryo Meshino can provide the spark which ignites a revival in Hearts’ performances and results after the international break.
The Japanese playmaker, on a season-long loan from Manchester City, made his Hearts debut as a substitute in the 2-2 draw at home to Hamilton Accies which extended a winless start to the Premiership campaign for Craig Levein’s side 12 days ago.
Having witnessed Meshino’s abilities at close quarters in training since then, defender Halkett is confident the 21-year-old can light up Scottish football over the coming weeks and months.
“He has looked really good and he is a really technical footballer,” said Halkett. “He has settled in well and he is doing better with his English. When he came, he obviously wasn’t speaking that much but he has settled in and is doing well now. He is a nice boy.
“He is something different that the league maybe hasn’t seen before, so he could show his worth in the coming weeks.”
The high water mark for any Japanese import to Scottish football is Shunsuke Nakamura, who earned Player of the Year honours during his successful spell at Celtic, and Halkett isn’t ruling out similar standards being met by Meshino.
“It definitely is early and he has only been in a couple of weeks but from what we have seen in the last couple of weeks in training and in the game, he is right up there,” added the 24-year-old.
“It’s a bit early to say whether he is like Nakamura but hopefully he gets to that level in the coming months.”
Halkett himself is still adapting to life at Hearts where he admits the demands far exceed those he experienced at Livingston before his summer move.
“The expectations are a lot different but it’s something I’m getting used to,” said Halkett, speaking at the launch of the SPFL Match Attax 2019/20 trading card game.
“It has been a bit of a disappointing start to the season but I don’t think we are far away at all from getting it right. If you look at the league games, we should have taken more points but individual mistakes or lapses in concentration have cost us.
“The fans are right to be disappointed and we are nowhere near where we should be in the table but I don’t think there is much to worry about. We are definitely not far away.”
Hearts will look to secure that first league win at home to Motherwell on Saturday before they face the first Edinburgh derby of the campaign against Hibs at Easter Road the following Sunday.
“It is important that we bounce back sooner rather than later and with the derby coming up in a couple of weeks there is that incentive,” added Halkett. “But even if that was a couple of months away, you would want to win on Saturday and then get a couple more on top of that to get a bit of momentum and get up the table.
“We had a couple of days off last week, then it was a case of getting back into training and working hard. As defenders, that is about doing the basics and focusing on getting clean sheets and being hard to beat. That is going to be important going forward. We have worked hard defensively in training and we are focused on the game on Saturday.
“The fans have their right to moan and groan if the game isn’t going well and I would be doing the same if I was a fan. As players, you have to take that on your shoulders and block it out if you are on the park. It is down to us to perform well and get the fans onside, so you have to take that pressure from the fans and use it to win the game.”
• Craig Halkett was speaking at the SPFL Match Attax 2019/20 launch – for more news and info follow @ToppsMatchAttax on Twitter and Facebook, @toppsmatchattax_ on Instagram and subscribe to MatchAttaxOFFICIAL on YouTube.