Before signing for Hearts in the summer Uche Ikpeazu had a range of options for the next step in his career.
The Englishman had just scored 14 goals for League 2 side Cambridge United, the best return of his career. There was a new contract on the table from the club, plus interest from a number of other sides.
However, the 23-year-old chose Scotland and a move to Tynecastle due to Hearts boss Craig Levein.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, he said: “You know what it is to be loved? Shaun Derry [the manager who signed him for Cambridge] showed me that but so did Craig Levein. He wanted me here. There were other clubs interested but Hearts really wanted me.
“He showed me clips of how he could improve me. It kind of touched me. I told my mum: ‘People have judged me, some have discarded me, but I have a manager here who has coached the highest level and says he wants me. I am going to go’.”
And go he did, instantly becoming a fans’ favourite.
Ikpeazu has missed the last three matches but is hoping to be fit for the club’s clash with Rangers at Ibrox as they look to reopen a five-point lead at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership table and put an 11 point buffer between them Sunday’s opponents.
The striker also paid tribute to Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola who was manager of Watford when he was at the Vicarage Road side.
“Gianfranco helped me a lot and I was pushing to get a game when he was sacked,” he said. “He would point out things that I didn’t understand until later in my career. He told me: ‘You have the ability to do well. But you need to read books, watch a lot of football and watch what you eat’.”
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