Why new Hearts striker Conor Washington was worth £3.5million in transfer fees
To say Hearts fans were excited by their new signing, striker Conor Washington, is perhaps an understatement.
The 27-year-old will arrive on a two-year deal following the end of his contract with Premier League side Sheffield United.
On their official club website, Hearts described the player as a "strong, pacey and skillful front man". It was also noted that the player has commanded more than £3.5million in transfer fees from his time in England.
Washington's career hasn't followed the traditional route, there was no academy football progression. Instead it has been about graft and grit.
Seven years ago football wasn't even his main profession, he was posting mail through letterboxes more regularly than he was finding the back of the net.
He combined those duties while playing non-league for St Ives Town before a switch to Newport County.
He told The Guardian: "I’d be up at 5am and then in for 5.30am-6am. I was turning up to some Saturday FA Vase games, the biggest games of my career at the time, and I literally had to run my round."
Yet, it wasn't until 2014 and move to Peterborough United when he really started to make a name for himself.
After a modest goal return at the South Wales side he began to hit the net more regularly for Posh, who have developed a reputation for finding gems lower down the English pyramid, polishing them and acting as a springboard to bigger and better things.
The first half of the 2015/2016 season saw him score 10 goals in 25 games in English League One. More than that was his application to the game, a "rawness" he calls it. A willingness and drive. Having experienced football at the coal face he didn't want to return, although he is appreciative of his upbringing.
“You can get bogged down in the technical side and lose some of that rawness,” Washington said. “A lot of people will say: ‘He’s too raw, he’s not got a good enough touch’, and so on but I’ve watched a few under?21 games and they’re nothing like league football.
“I’ve seen it in my career where there have been a lot of players who’ve come through academies and been in shock at what football is like in the Championship, League One and League Two. The physical side, along with the speed of play, is massive. I don’t think they particularly press in under?21 football but when you come down to League One you get harassed. It’s a steep learning curve.”
Washington, like Jamie Vardy before him, has that edge which is so attractive to teams.
Peterborough owner Darragh MacAnthony, in 2016, took to Twitter to reveal the extent of the interest.
He tweeted: “On Monday Night I turned down a multi-multi million pound bid for Conor Washington from a recently relegated Premier league club. On Tuesday afternoon I turned down another multi-million pound bid for Conor from another ex-prem club.
“And yesterday morning I again turned another bid down for Conor from a large Championship club. The fact is I have rejected three bids on the terms offered."
Queen's Park Rangers would win the race for his signature for a reported £2.8million. He was seen as a direct replacement for Charlie Austin who had made the move to Southampton.
His manager at QPR? An individual who knows one or two things about finding the back of the net: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, scorer of 129 Premier league goals.
Of Washington, he said: “Conor is a player I’ve admired for a while now, so I’m delighted he’s agreed to join us. I’ve seen first-hand what he’s capable of and his all-round game has always impressed me. Of course he’s still got a lot to learn – he’s by no means the finished article – but I am convinced he has what it takes to succeed at a higher level with us.
“He’s raw, he’s hungry, he’s determined. He’s quick and he’s versatile, which is important. He can play on his own up there, in a two, or on the shoulder of another striker. He’s got great pace to get in behind and that’s something we need when you look at our current attacking options.”
While a first-team regular, he probably didn't find himself on the scoresheet as frequently as he would have hoped, but the move did result in a call up to the Northern Ireland national team for Euro 2016 where he featured in every match.
He has since amassed 18 caps and got a move to Sheffield United playing a part in their Premier League promotion.
On signing Washington, United boss Chris Wilder said: "Conor ticks a lot of boxes in what we are looking for at the top of the pitch, he's got pace, power and works hard, a good fit for us."
Hearts fought off strong competition to sign the player and he is a figure, going by the testimonies of former coaches, who the fans will take a liking to.
Selfless and quick, he will make a nuisance of himself in the final third and is capable of dragging the team forward. The qualities outlined suggest he will be able to partner a number of his new team-mates, whether it is a powerful combo with Uche Ikpeazu, stretching the game for Steven MacLean to operate or dovetailing with Steven Naismith.
Craig Levein was keen on a forward and he has got his man.