ALIM OZTURK admits he would be honoured to become Hearts’ new captain at the age of 22.
The Turkish centre-back has emerged as a strong contender to replace the departed Danny Wilson as skipper.
He was one of four players to wear the armband during Hearts’ two friendly matches in Dublin as he led the team out against Shelbourne on Saturday before leaving the park through injury in the 27th minute of his side’s 4-2 victory at Tolka Park. Morgaro Gomis, Prince Buaben and Blazej Augustyn were the others to get a crack at the captaincy on the Emerald Isle, while goalkeeper Neil Alexander has also been named by Robbie Neilson as a possibility.
The head coach is close to making a decision on the matter, and Ozturk, who joined the club last summer, admits it would be a privilege if he were to get the nod.
“I have been captain in friendlies before for other teams but it was a big honour for me when I heard I would be captain for the Shelbourne game,” he said. “I will just have to wait to see what will happen now because there are a lot of players with the qualities to captain this team. It means a lot to be in the running when there are more experienced players than me, but it’s up to the gaffer.”
Ozturk’s pre-season has been slightly hindered as he is still feeling his way back to fitness following a minor stomach operation at the end of last season. There was alarm among the Hearts support when the defender had to limp gingerly out of his first pre-season match after feeling tightness in his thigh just 27 minutes in. However, Ozturk, who is also feeling the physical effects of Ramadan, soon allayed any fears that he had set himself back.
“My thigh was just a little bit tight so we didn’t want to take any risks,” he said. “I had the surgery in the first week of May and the plan was that I would just miss a little bit of pre-season. It wasn’t a hernia, but a muscle near there. It was not a big problem but it was bothering me the last few months of last season. I wanted to play with the pain to help us win the league and the plan was always to do the surgery in the summer so I could have five or six weeks rest afterwards before pre-season. There’s a small pain here and there which is a little bit frustrating.”
Meanwhile, Neilson was today due to inform Swiss-Albanian trialist Mergim Bajraktari if he has any chance of landing a deal at Hearts. “I’ll speak to Mergim and let him know my thoughts,” he said.
Juwon Oshaniwa is due at Tynecastle imminently to finalise a three-year deal, but, with a visa still to be negotiated, Neilson is unsure exactly when the Nigerian left-back will arrive.