‘I feel like he’s got to come out the team’ – Hearts boss explains why Zdenek Zlamal will be dropped
Craig Levein is confident the introduction of Joel Pereira will give Hearts a more assured look following Zdenek Zlamal’s loss of confidence.
The manager initially had no intention of recruiting a new goalkeeper but felt he had no option but to do so after watching his No.1 make an unconvincing start to the season. Levein has huge sympathy for the amiable Czech, but is grateful that the stars aligned perfectly to allow him to bring in a replacement with the pedigree of 23-year-old Pereira, who this week joined on a season-long loan from a Manchester United.
The Swiss-born Portugal Under-21 internationalist will make his debut away to Motherwell in the Betfred Cup tonight and Levein expects his presence to have a settling effect on a team which looked ill at ease from back to front as Zlamal endured a wretched afternoon against Ross County last weekend.
“Bobby (Zlamal) has suffered the last little while,” said Levein. “Last season he made three or four mistakes and he has had one of those pre-seasons and early games where things just haven’t gone his way. He’s a brilliant guy but he’s suffered and I feel like he’s got to come out the team.
“As much as he is an older, experienced goalkeeper, the game can affect you and get into your head. His decision-making has been a little bit off and that hasn’t helped the group. He’s been so good for us but it is such a critical position.
“When I started thinking about it, I thought ‘do I bring one in underneath Bobby and Colin Doyle?’, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. I just felt that I wanted to bring in somebody who could go in immediately and calm everybody down and make them feel relaxed defensively, which is important.
“Virtually the same moment I was thinking about these things I got a call from Les Parry, who does the loan deals for Manchester United, asking if I was needing anything? It is almost like Santa Claus phoning you and asking you ‘what is it you are wanting again?’ Les has been up when Demi Mitchell was up here and we keep in touch regularly.
“Joel has had two loans and played for Manchester United’s first team in pre-season games (last month). We know we are not getting a goalie from Man U who has played in the first team regularly and there is an element of risk in it, but he is well regarded and everybody I have spoken to says he possesses the right character to do well. I made a lot of phone calls to people at Man U who know the boy himself and everything that came back was hugely positive. He has trained really well and there has been a change. Sometimes that lightens people’s mood and that is one thing we needed to do after last Saturday.”
The addition of Glenn Whelan has further lifted spirits in the past few days although the 35-year-old Republic of Ireland midfielder is unlikely to start against Motherwell.
“He’s trained with us a few days and he trained in the summer with the Republic which is good, but he hasn’t done a pre-season so he’ll be a wee bit behind,” said Levein. “But he’s an experienced player. If you don’t see him against Motherwell you’ll maybe see him in the Celtic game.”
Levein, who has come under heavy criticism from supporters this week, is determined to banish last weekend’s abject display in the 0-0 draw with Ross County.
“I’ve tried to give the players a boost by adding quality,” he said. “But for me the benchmark was set.
“That was the worst performance we can ever have - and don’t forget it. There was a lack of fight, determination and we got caught up in our own heads listening to the crowd. Then we started doing stuff that we just hadn’t done in training.
“I can always tell when they are suffering because we start battering the ball to Uche (Ikpeazu) and hope for the best, and it never works for us. It’s not something we do in training. But when players get nervous they know if the ball is away from them they can’t be at fault for anything. When you watch most teams when they are struggling a wee bit that tends to be the default position.”