Spending weeks on end with Ryan McGowan inevitably leads to conversations about Hearts. So, when Oliver Bozanic was offered a move to Tynecastle Park, his mind instantly recalled chats with “Gowser” during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The pair were team-mates in the Australian squad that summer and enjoyed a career pinnacle by playing in high-profile matches against nations like Spain and the Netherlands. McGowan, perhaps typically given his legendary status in Gorgie, used the down time between games to subtly inform colleagues about his time as a Hearts player.
Little did he know how useful his enthusiasm for the cause would become for one mate in particular.
“Ryan is a top guy. He has done very well for the national team and throughout his career,” explained Bozanic. “I didn’t actually speak to Ryan before signing. In the past, he’s talked about this club, how great it is and about the fans. That made it easier to make my decision. There were little mentions here and there when we were together. He sowed the seeds.
“Once I knew about the chance to come here, it wasn’t really about speaking to anyone else. I was back in Australia and there was communication between my agents and the gaffer. From there, it happened very quickly and I was happy to get over here and get started.
“I knew it was a great opportunity for myself. It’s a massive club, a massive fan base, very passionate people, and it was something I wanted to take on straight away.”
Bozanic played in Britain as a teenager at Reading, although he didn’t make a first-team appearance. He since enjoyed spells in his native Australia, plus Switzerland and Japan. “It was always in the back of my mind to come back to Europe. When this came up at this club, it was something I wanted to take on immediately,” he continued.
“A few Australians have been here in the past so that makes it easier to make a decision. Ryan was here and was very successful and I’d like to continue that pathway for Australian players. Hopefully I can prove myself here.”
He will attempt to do so using a playing style based around energy, with a solid work ethic and an instinct to get forward from the middle of midfield.
“I like to play with a lot of energy and work hard for the team,” said Bozanic. “I like to play football and build up from midfield but also get into the box and create as well.”
Craig Levein has been one of the busiest managers in Britain in recent weeks by bringing ten new signings to Hearts. Bozanic was comforted by the fact he was one of many new faces walking into the Riccarton dressing room for pre-season training this week.
Fellow Australian Ben Garuccio is another new recruit after Levein decided to conduct a major revamp of his first-team squad.
“In some respects, it’s maybe a little easier to adapt with so many other new people. I think everyone is on the same page and understands what it means to play for this club, and if we have a good pre-season I think we can start well.”
Bozanic is also a former team-mate of Tom Rogic from their time together at Central Coast Mariners in Australia. He has watched the Celtic midfielder gradually ease himself into Scottish football after arriving in 2013.
“From his time at Central Coast, he started very well and came onto the scene with the national team,” recalled Bozanic.
“You could see he would have a great career, even back then. As soon as he had his breakthrough season with Central Coast, there was immediately a lot of interest from a lot of big clubs in Europe and it was never going to be long before someone picked him up. He has shown his worth in Scotland and it’s big news back home. Celtic’s games are televised and, especially when he plays or scores, it is talked up a lot.”
Emulating Rogic’s progress would suit Bozanic nicely.
“It’s great to see him doing so well in the league and with the national team. I hope I can have the same sort of impact at Hearts. That’s going to be my objective – to have a big effect here. I want to make that happen.”