Hearts reward Oliver Bozanic for patience and competitive edge

Australian midfielder has been recalled to the team to provide some extra bite

By Barry Anderson
Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 6:05 am
Oliver Bozanic is back competing in the middle of Hearts' midfield
Oliver Bozanic is back competing in the middle of Hearts' midfield

When Hearts’ management team decided they needed a more competitive edge within their side, it is no surprise that Australian midfielder Oliver Bozanic was one of the players they turned to.

Energy and aggression is what the diminutive Sydneysider specialises in. Without ever losing control on the field, Bozanic manages to exude plenty fire, passion and dynamism in his play which inspires others around him.

Ideal if, like Hearts, there is a desire to compete better and “win the fight” in the forever uncompromising Scottish Premiership. League form has been awful with just one win in ten games for the Edinburgh club, thus Bozanic was recalled to face Rangers two games ago after a lengthy period out of the starting line-up.

Sign up to our Hearts newsletter

It was his first start of the season but he looked his typically industrious self. He retained his place in central midfield for Saturday’s goalless draw at Livingston.

“It’s good that the gaffer feels it’s time for me to play. I’m happy to be a part of it because I want to be playing every game. I’ve been very patient so now I want to focus on the job ahead and do what I can for the team,” Bozanic told the Evening News.

“It’s extremely difficult on the subs’ bench. No-one wants to be in that position. It has been tough but I have been back in for the last two games. I spoke with the manager before and it was a process of just waiting to get back in.

“If we can get results over the next few weeks, and if I can play well myself, I can cement my spot. I just want to prove myself every week and keep getting better. I want to be the best I can be here.”

The timing, from the player’s perspective, is impeccable. Hearts travel to St Johnstone this evening for a critical league encounter before a Betfred Cup semi-final against Rangers at Hampden Park on Sunday.

There is pressure to garner points in Perth as well as the obvious craving for a cup final berth against either Celtic or Hibs.

St Johnstone are the Premiership’s bottom club but are just one point worse off than Hearts, which underlines the current predicament of both teams. The prospect of slipping to the foot of the league by later tonight will send a shiver down the spines of Tynecastle Park regulars.

The 0-0 draw at Livingston on Saturday did little to help the situation. This evening’s match becomes ever more important as a consequnce. “We wanted to capitalise on Livingston getting a man sent off but we couldn’t quite manage it. I still think there were a number of positives to take from the game and we need to move forward now,” said Bozanic.

“We need to keep building, get some wins and start to build that confidence. First up is tonight, which is a massive game. We want three points from that and then there is the cup semi.

“There is a lot to play for and it’s exciting times ahead for Hearts. We need some good performances to make the club and the fans happy, plus get us back to where we should be.”

Bozanic joined Hearts from Melbourne City in summer 2018 hoping to involved in weeks just like this with plenty riding on them. Immediate thoughts are on St Johnstone. For now, Rangers must wait.

“Tonight is a really huge game for us. That is the most important one because it’s the next one, and then there is the cup as well. Hopefully by next week we will be in the right position,” he said.

“It will be a fight at St Johnstone. We have had to recover from Saturday, which can be a similar game. I think we will be ready for that.”

Other players made of lesser substance might shy away from the pressure and scrutiny surrounding Hearts at the moment but Bozanic is more than comfortable with it.

At 30, he is an Australian internationalist with experience of playing in his homeland, England, Switzerland and Japan before he chose Scotland as his latest destination. Despite the fact a permanent place in Hearts’ starting line-up has hitherto eluded him, he is perfectly content with life in Edinburgh.

“I’ve had a great experience so far. I can see how big the club is and I’m grateful to be at such a massive club. I’m looking forward to more games now,” said the player.

“I love the expectation. Obviously we are not where we want to be right now but I love playing in front of big crowds and passionate fans. Scotland has that in a nutshell – people who are passionate about football. It’s great to play in front of that.

“There is always pressure and everyone needs to play well to deliver. Hopefully we can do that in the games coming up.”

Bozanic will be giving everything as always to help the cause. He is one player whose heart can never be questioned.