Oliver Bozanic’s Hearts career has yet to properly ignite, hence the midfielder seeking a spark tomorrow at St Mirren.
He has started six of the Edinburgh club’s 20 competitive games to date this season and wants a prolonged run in Craig Levein’s side. A dynamic midfielder who strikes a lethal free-kick, he has shown enough in flashes to indicate he has more to offer with the benefit of greater momentum.
“I’ve been happy with the games I’ve been involved in. I definitely hope to be involved in more games coming up,” said the 29-year-old, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully being more involved. Once I break through and play every week, I hope I can show what I’m really about as a footballer.”
He has played in central midfield and out wide since arriving from the Australian A League club Melbourne City in June. Bozanic is clear about where he performs best.
“I’m definitely most comfortable in the middle,” he explained. “I like to build up the play and get involved going forwards, so I like to be in there. I feel, if I can have a run of games and show what I can do in the middle of midfield, then hopefully I can stay in that position.”
Bozanic is in contention to start against St Mirren as manager Levein considers a slight change of formation. Arnaud Djoum, Olly Lee, Peter Haring and Harry Cochrane are also battling for those central midfield roles.
“We have a lot of good players in all areas so everyone has competition. That’s good for the team and pushes everyone to perform,” said Bozanic. “Collectively, it’s pushing us to be the best we can be.”
The Australian featured in a wide position during recent games against Hibs and Celtic but was an unused substitute against Kilmarnock before the international break.
If reinstated tomorrow, he hopes to impress sufficiently to be given a run of games between now and the Ladbrokes Premiership’s winter break – and cement his place for the remainder of the season.
St Mirren sit 11th in the league table, just one point ahead of bottom club Dundee, but won’t be taken lightly by joint-top Hearts.
“We have worked really hard over this international break and we want to have a good game this weekend to bounce back from the previous results,” said Bozanic. “We had a few setbacks but now it’s really about moving forward and focusing on what we can do this weekend. You have to improve what we didn’t like in those games but, if we put in a good performance, bounce back and focus on the positives tomorrow, then we keep working towards our goals.”
Levein’s proposed system change is, understandably, being kept under wraps at Riccarton. Beating St Mirren could be a vital springboard for Hearts as they approach a typically busy fixture list in December, so preparing for any eventuality is vital.
“We’ve been working hard towards this game and we’re working on some tactical stuff,” said Bozanic. “Some of the boys have been away on international duty so now we’re starting to focus on St Mirren.
“We practise different formations every week so that we’re ready if that’s an option. So far, we don’t know yet.”
Beyond his ambitions of becoming a mainstay with his new club in Scotland, Bozanic is adamant his international career is far from over. He is the proud owner of seven Australia caps and represented his country at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Moving to Hearts was intended to help him recapture the form to prompt an international recall. Realistically, he knows a regular starting place at Tynecastle Park is vital before that aim can be achieved.
“I’ve played for the national team so being back in Europe, in Scotland, is a good opportunity to be involved. Getting back in the national team is definitely part of my goals,” stressed Bozanic.
He certainly isn’t short of compatriots in Edinburgh, or Glasgow for that matter. Hibs players Mark Milligan and Jamie Maclaren are regulars in Graham Arnold’s Socceroos squad, and Martin Boyle scored his first two goals for Australia earlier this week having switched his allegiance to the Aussies.
Ben Garuccio is Bozanic’s Australian team-mate at Hearts, and Tom Rogic is an influential figure along the M8 at Celtic Park.
Bozanic admitted being familiar with the Hibs players from his homeland. “Ben and I know them from playing with them in the national team and playing against them in the national team. We didn’t meet them much around derby week but it’s good to have other Aussies here in Scotland,” he laughed.
“They have been doing well and hopefully we can keep doing well and show what the Aussies can do here.”
The Scottish league is generally regarded as a league where Australian players can thrive if they have international ambitions. Bozanic hopes to utilise that opportunity for himself soon.
“You look at the Aussies playing in Scotland and pretty much all of them have been in the Australian squad or they’re current national team players. I think this is a good league to progress into that team.”