David Vanecek’s home league debut lasted just 34 minutes. And they were not a productive 34 minutes.
Craig Levein was candid when asked why he’d taken the striker off after the match. “He was rubbish,” was his immediate answer. He also said he was “a bit annoyed” with the Czech’s fitness when he arrived at the club in January.
Vanecek had been hyped up since his pre-contract agreement in the summer. Part of this was down to the player himself, saying all the right things on social media as he desperately wanted to join his new side, while another part was down to the forward crisis Hearts suffered through earlier in the campaign.
However, it now seems that the forward will not hit the ground running in the same manner as a Mark de Vries or an Osman Sow. He’ll have to be brought along slowly.
It’s frustrating, especially given the need for another forward to come in and contribute right away, but there's nothing to be gained from the fans writing the player off so soon, regardless of how bad Wednesday night was.
The first touch that had looked quite promising against Livingston on Sunday was largely absent. He did, however, continue his preference for trying to win high balls by muscling his way into position to receive it, rather than looking to leap off the turf and get his head on it. Not only did he fail to sufficiently unsettle Genseric Kusunga and Ryan Inniss, a physically imposing centre-back pairing if ever you’ve seen one, he also committed a stream of fouls. This led to him becoming frustrated which in turn led to a yellow card after he flattened Inniss with a stray elbow. When he and his marker fought each other to the turf once more, he screamed at referee John Beaton for not giving him the foul. At this point Levein had seen enough.
Vanecek looked very much like a player unfamiliar with the style of Scottish football and what you can and cannot get any with in the physical battle as a centre forward. This stuff can be learned in time. He should also begin to make himself more of a goal threat, which is what he was advertised as, once he develops a rhythm with his teammates in training.
The lack of fitness was a concern, but Levein has already stamped down his authority by mentioning it in public. Whatever your feelings towards the Hearts manager, he doesn’t show sentimentality for new signings purely because he’s bought them. If they’re not good enough he’ll try his best to immediately ship them back out of the door. Vanecek, it would seem, has been delivered his first warning in that regard. Let's hope he learns from it.