Luton Town’s farewell Twitter message to Olly Lee gives Hearts fans an inkling of what to expect from their latest signing: “Thanks for the memories @OllyLee7... no-one will ever forget THAT goal. Nor THAT goal! Good luck.”
The social media post confirmed Craig Levein’s recruitment of a midfielder with a penchant for bulging nets. Lee’s departure hit Luton hard after he rejected a new contract to move to Tynecastle Park, where his new three-year deal will take effect this summer.
He will aim to ripple Scottish rigging in the same devastating fashion as he did League Two in England. Just three weeks ago, Lee scored the equaliser which secured Luton’s promotion to League One away at Carlisle United.
His most notable contribution at Kenilworth Road was a 70-yard beauty from his own half in the 7-0 win over Cambridge United last November. That earned him the EFL Goal of the Year award for a strike described by Luton staff as being “from another post code”.
Players at the Bedfordshire club are saddened by the 26-year-old’s exit but expect the Hearts support to warm to him quickly. Especially if he gets his groove on from outside the penalty box.
“He is technically a very good footballer, he works really hard and trains very well. He scores spectacular goals, too,” said James Collins, the former Hibs striker who struck 20 goals of his own for Luton this season.
“Olly has scored a few great ones for us this season. I think he will do really well in Scotland. He scored that one from 70 yards, which was well-documented. He scored the equaliser to get us promoted as well. They are just a couple that spring to mind. He likes to shoot and if he gets the opportunity to score goals up north he’ll definitely take it.”
Lee learned his trade from his father, the former Newcastle United and England midfielder, Rob. He has a similar style and favours a cultured, passing approach, laced with the odd goal. He scored seven times in 43 appearances this season and has played 123 times for Luton since August 2015.
“He likes to go forward more than defending, although he does his defensive job really well. He’s done that for us all season when required,” added Collins.
“The players are a bit disappointed he’s left. Sometimes it’s better for people’s careers that they move on so I wish him all the best. The move came as a bit of a surprise to me because came out of the blue. I knew Luton offered him a new deal and then all of a sudden he’s off to Hearts.”
His character within the dressing room will also be part of the attraction for Levein. Lee has been on the books of West Ham United and Birmingham City amongst other English clubs and arrives in Edinburgh with a solid grounding.
“Olly is very experienced, very vocal in the dressing room and his performances on the pitch certainly speak for themselves,” said Collins. “He always wants the ball, even in tight areas, no matter who is around him. I’m sure he’ll carry on playing in a similar way up at Hearts.”
Goals aside, Tynecastle regulars are eager for their team to pass the ball better next season and adopt a more cohesive style of play. Collins feels Lee will fit in perfectly in that regard.
“There are a lot of good footballing sides in Scotland. I certainly noticed that when I was playing up there and I imagine it’s still the same,” he recalled from his year-long stint at Easter Road in season 2013/14.
“I’ve watched Hearts a couple of times this season and they do like to get the ball down and play. I don’t know what system they will play but I think Olly is capable of slotting into whatever formation Hearts want to use. He won’t take long to adapt to it.”