News of Steven MacLean’s imminent arrival has brought mixed responses from Hearts fans. Steve Lomas, the man who signed him for St Johnstone, is utterly convinced the 35-year-old will be a success.
In fact, Lomas predicted he could form a useful striking partnership with Kyle Lafferty whilst guiding young teenage forwards along the right path.
Hearts want an older head in the striking department next season to help youngsters Aidan Keena, Euan Henderson, Rory Currie and Anthony McDonald develop and learn the correct habits.
Lomas stressed they couldn’t pick a better role model than MacLean, who is out of contract at McDiarmid Park next month. He also expects the veteran to raise a few eyebrows on the pitch by becoming a regular in the Hearts team.
“If I’m being honest, he was my best-ever signing. He was absolutely superb,” the Northern Irishman told the Evening News.
“I think it’s a very clever move from Craig Levein, 100 per cent. It wouldn’t surprise me if he plays 25 games for Hearts next season. Stevie’s game is about more than scoring goals. His all-round link-up play is great. I could see him and Lafferty forming a decent partnership with Laff’s mobility and Steve’s guile.”
Lomas made St Johnstone the tenth club of MacLean’s career in September 2012. The player went on to inscribe his name in Perth folklore by scoring in the club’s 2014 Scottish Cup final win.
By then, Lomas had headed south to Millwall but MacLean had made a lasting impression on the former West Ham United captain. “When I went to Millwall, Steven was very much in my thoughts for bringing in. I thought he could definitely handle it. We just had too many strikers at the time and I couldn’t get rid of them,” explained Lomas.
“At St Johnstone, we had very little budget left and he came in for a pittance. He initially only signed a six-month contract but he said: ‘I’ll win a new deal.’ Straight away I thought: ‘I’m having you.’
“He was brilliant at the start and then he dislocated his elbow away at Dundee. He was back within six weeks from what was a terrible dislocation.
“He formed a really superb partnership with Gregory Tade and was instrumental in how we played. We had lost Cillian Sheridan and Fran Sandaza and were used to playing 4-4-2. We then went 4-2-3-1 and he was at the head of the link-up play.
“Stevie is actually a better player than I thought he was. I remember playing against him when he first joined Sheffield Wednesday and technically he was far better than I thought. He probably should have been playing higher if the truth be told.
“He just has a superb attitude. He’s a winner, a leader and just fantastic to work with. Steven’s guile and know-how made him the perfect foil for Tade, who had a bit of pace. I just can’t speak highly enough of the lad. He was brilliant for me and a model professional.”
The move to Hearts comes eight years after MacLean first went on trial at Riccarton. At the time, although manager Csaba Laszlo was desperate to sign him, the club’s then-owner Vladimir Romanov refused to sanction the move. Now MacLean could get the chance not only to play for the Tynecastle club but to eventually begin his coaching career there.
Hearts’ management structure is set up to give young coaches opportunities and Levein is keen to oversee their development. MacLean is wanted for playing qualities right now but, in time, management may be a natural progression.
“There’s no doubt Stevie will go into coaching and management. He’s got the right attitude for it and it would really suit him,” said Lomas.