The hype around Loic Damour has swiftly dampened since his eagerly-awaited arrival at Hearts four months ago.
The French midfielder joined from Cardiff City on a four-year contract amid a buzz of expectation in mid-August. Towards the end of what was widely deemed a promising transfer window for Hearts, the recruitment of Damour, who had been a prominent member of Cardiff’s squad during their promotion from the English Championship two seasons ago, was viewed as a coup.
The intervening period hasn’t gone to plan, however, with Damour struggling for form in a Hearts team which has slipped to joint-bottom of the Scottish Premiership. The 28-year-old, who has started ten games for the Tynecastle side so far, is well aware that he hasn’t done enough yet to win over underwhelmed supporters, but he is hopeful that his improved performance in Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat by Celtic is a sign that he is getting towards the level of form he knows he is capable of.
“It has been very tough, very tough,” he told the Evening News when asked about his opening months in Edinburgh. “This was not the start I expected. I have been struggling with the team. I hope the Hearts fans are still to see the best of me because they haven’t seen nothing from me so far.
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“I understand their frustration against the team and against me. I had a lot of attention when I first arrived and there was a lot of expectation on me but I know I have not met the standard. I am the first one to understand this situation because I know myself I have not been good enough. I need to fight to show them what I can do and hopefully that happens as soon as possible for me and for the team.”
Damour has been in and out of Hearts’ starting XI since his arrival, with Wednesday’s match representing his first full 90 minutes since August 2018, although he did play 89 minutes for Cardiff at the start of January this year. The Frenchman’s aggression and intensity was key to Hearts’ strong start against the champions. It is clear from talking to him that he is a passionate man and he enjoyed enjoyed being in the thick of it against the strongest midfield in the country, although he was keen to point out that he feels Celtic captain Scott Brown gets away with too much on the field.
“I was very happy to get the 90 minutes against Celtic because that was my first 90 minutes since January,” said Damour. “I was f***** at the end but I continued to work for the team. I enjoyed the battle, especially with Brown, I think his name is. Apparently he is like the king of the league because he can do whatever he wants on the pitch and the referee never says anything. He is the referee on the pitch and that is seemingly normal here. I was very frustrated about that so I wanted to let him know we have a referee on the pitch and he (Brown) is not the referee.
“He plays his game but he also plays like the referee so it is like we have no referee on the pitch. I’m starting to know this league now and I can see that when we play Celtic, ok, Brown is the referee. It’s easy for them just now because they are top of the league and apparently they always win against Hearts at the moment but hopefully we will be in better condition next time we play them and then we’ll see what happens.”
Although Hearts suffered another defeat on Wednesday, Damour has called on Hearts to replicate the character they showed against the champions when they visit Hamilton a Accies for Saturday's bottom-of-the-table showdown. If Daniel Stendel’s side lose in Lanarkshire, they will spend Christmas Day three points adrift at the foot of the Premiership.
“It is never very good when you lose but the Celtic game felt like a good step forward for us,” said Damour. “There were good signs but we need to keep going on this line. The feeling was a lot better. We tried to play, we tried to create and we tried to play with identity. Everybody could see that. It is a good step but now we must do that game after game and be consistent. There is no point in playing like that for just one game against Celtic. We have to do that a lot more often and get better and better. We have to fight to leave the bottom of the league.
“Hamilton is a very big game for us. We have to recover from Wednesday and prepare well for it. It’s our aim to leave the bottom of the league and we need to fight for that. It’s a completely different type of game to what we had on Wednesday but we need to be prepared for that. This league is not just about playing Celtic and games like that. We have to produce the same type of performance we had on Wednesday whether we’re at home or away and no matter who we’re playing. We need to play with identity and character.”