Hearts’ Aidan Keena: Don’t send me on loan – I can solve scoring problems

Aidan Keena doesn’t want another loan. Been there, done that. The young Irishman harbours genuine conviction that he can solve Hearts’ goalscoring issues. He must first coerce manager Craig Levein into giving him more game time.

Tuesday, 30th July 2019, 6:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 30th July 2019, 7:30 am
Hearts' Aidan Keena in action during the match against East Fife. Pic: SNS

Three substitute outings in Betfred Cup group matches eased the striker back into competitive action after cartilage surgery ended his campaign prematurely last season. Now he hankers after a starting berth, fuelled by unshakeable belief that he is the predatory goal-poacher Hearts need.

A total of 76 shots during four Betfred ties this month yielded just six goals for the Edinburgh club. The need to remedy such statistics could work in Keena’s favour. He bulged nets at Queen’s Park two seasons back and did likewise for Dunfermline last term. Now 20, he intends to convince Levein that he is too valuable an asset to loan out.

“I’d say ‘no’. I don’t want a loan. I’ve gone on loan in the last two seasons and shown the gaffer I can score goals,” he told the Evening News. “I went to League One with Queen’s Park and scored a few. I went to Dunfermline and scored a few in the Championship. I feel I could score in the Premiership if I got a few games.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“I wouldn’t be too disappointed if another loan did come about because I’d be more likely to play every week and score more goals. I definitely feel I can push for a place here, even if it takes until Christmas. My mindset right now is to do well enough that the gaffer doesn’t want to send me on loan.

“It’s definitely a boost being back involved. I worked hard over the summer to come back and be in the picture. Whether or not I go on loan again, I don’t know. At the minute, I’m fighting for a place.”

Sitting on the substitutes’ bench watching chances go abegging leaves strikers thinking: ‘I’d have that one; I’d score there.’ It is a natural reaction Keena has become accustomed to already this season.

“Everyone does that. I’m sure everyone in the crowd is saying the same. It’s different when you’re out there but I definitely feel I can score goals in this team,” he said. “Anywhere I go, I reckon I can score goals. Some other parts of my game might not be as good as the other strikers but, in terms in goalscoring, I don’t feel I’m behind any of them.”

His natural finishing instinct has yet to be tested week in and week out by Hearts, but the appetite to ripple some rigging is clear. Keena came off the bench in Saturday’s final Betfred Cup group tie at East Fife eager to make his mark. An audacious effort from 40 yards which flew over the opposition crossbar was perhaps slightly overzealous.

The Premiership begins on Sunday and Keena feels one solitary scoring opportunity could see him on his way.

“That’s what I’m hoping for. I just want one chance, that’s all I feel I need. We work on finishing enough and I do quite well in those drills. I definitely see myself as a goalscorer. I’ll keep plugging away at the rest of my game, then maybe the gaffer will show confidence in me and I’ll get a few games.”

He is, like most youngsters, slightly impatient. “You just have to wait until there is an opportunity, especially when you’re a young player. There might be an injury or you might be doing well in the reserves while the first team isn’t doing so well. You have to wait and, when you get your chance, take it.

“I think I do well enough in training and look after myself well enough to be up there. I don’t think I’m here by chance because I have wo rked hard. I was in over the summer recovering and I’ve worked just as hard as anyone else to get here. I’m pretty happy where I am at the minute.”

After all the endeavour, Aidan Keena has no plans to go anywhere.