Robbie’s Gift of the Gav
Morning all! The end of the working week is nigh and it’s been a particularly productive one at Tynecastle on the transfer front, with a couple of new faces arriving in the past few days. However, if Hearts fans felt Blazej Augustyn’s signing had appeared out of the blue last week, the second appearance of the transfer klaxon will have provoked slightly less surprise, given that Gavin Reilly’s move to Tynecastle had essentially been a done deal for weeks, with only the matter of development compensation holding up official confirmation.
Nevertheless, Reilly was finally unveiled as a Hearts player on Tuesday morning and nobody seemed more pleased about that fact than the former Queens attacker himself.
“When you’ve got a club the size of Hearts interested in you, it’s a wee bit overwhelming. To come to a club this size with an exceptional fan base and a brilliant stadium and training facilities will help me progress as a player. It feels like the right choice for me.”
Like most Hearts supporters, I only got an opportunity to see Reilly in action a handful of times last season, but most of the signs suggest that this deal is also the right choice for Hearts. Unfortunately, there were still be elements of the Gorgie faithful who will need further convincing of that fact, a feeling of doubt that seems to be born out of the love they felt for James Keatings. This, however, is to imply that Robbie Neilson has recruited Reilly as a like-for-like replacement, something the manager was keen to dismiss even before the signing had been confirmed:
“I think he’s a different type of player to Keatings. He gives you pace and energy, plus the option to make movements in behind defenders and use his pace. James worked fantastically well for us and I’m sure he’ll be a great signing for Hibs…I just felt that getting Gavin in brings that pace and energy to go and cause problems in the top flight.”
Considering how successful the team was last season, it still amazes me that the “keyboard scouts” on Kickback (and other theatres of debate) continue to question the logic behind some of our transfer targets. In terms of questionable signings, the very worst that can be levelled at Levein and Neilson so far is the “jury’s out” category of player that currently houses El Hass and Kenny Anderson (and debatably at that).
On the evidence of his career so far (his goal-scoring record in particular) there is no reason to believe that Reilly will be anything other than successful at Hearts. Unfortunately, previous players have arrived at Tynecastle with similarly successful track records, only to have struggled under the weight of supporter expectation and be labelled as failures.
Very few would have complained when we first signed the likes of John Sutton and Dennis Wyness, but both essentially became victims of their own prior success during their spells at the club. Having been renowned in the Scottish game for their goal-scoring prowess at Motherwell and Inverness respectively, the bar was arguably set higher for them than it has been for strikers who arrived as relative unknowns. Michal Pospisil, for example, had a goals to games ratio only marginally better than Wyness, and yet nobody thinks of Pospisil as the colossal dud Wyness supposedly was.
Of course, supporters are always going to be more aware of successful domestic-based players than unknown foreign imports, particularly if those domestic-based players have caused their own club problems. Such awareness raises the expectation that players like Wyness and Sutton will replicate their previous form, and is perhaps what leads to crushing disappointment when it doesn’t work out accordingly.
There is a fear therefore that sections of the support will pile unnecessary pressure on Reilly to make an instant impact, when in actual fact, the recruitment of a 22-year old striker from a lower league is as much a long-term measure as it is a quick-fix solution, something Robbie also alluded to:
“He’s young and we think we can develop him. It’s important we look at players’ backgrounds and their training history. We think there is definitely potential there for us to develop Reilly.”
Another striker who Neilson will be keen to develop is Juanma Delgado, who became his third summer signing yesterday afternoon, having flown into Edinburgh to seal a three-year deal. Interestingly enough, shortly before the signing was confirmed, it was reported in the press that Neilson had made moves to sign Juanma back in January but “settled” for Genero Zeefuik when it transpired that the Spaniard was unavailable. If a player who ended up netting 12 times in 15 games was the second-choice option, it will be interesting to see what this guy can do; especially when he is expected to provide an aerial threat that none of our strikers last season seemed capable of.
With three signings now through the door, the rumour mill will be back in operation as speculation over our remaining transfer targets spreads. The Conor Newton rumour seems to have died a death, while John McGinn is also reportedly on our radar. The key position of left back is also still to be addressed and I would imagine another utility-type defender would be required for purposes of depth. However, while we may seem short of cover in some areas, Neilson has maintained that quality takes priority over quantity:
“We don’t need a lot. It’s just bringing in quality that will add to the squad…You want to get boys in early but you don’t want to rush things. You want to makes sure the guys you want are the ones you get in. At the moment, we’re on course to do that.”
The beauty of Neilson and Levein’s player recruitment (and retention) strategy so far has been selling the club to players who would otherwise be looking to play on a bigger stage. Obvious examples of that type of player include Miguel Pallardo, Adam Eckersley and Osman Sow, who were all clearly a cut above the Championship last season but were nonetheless convinced to sign on by the Hearts management. While it is generally understood that past injury problems have made it easier to recruit some players (Augustyn being the most recent example) there is a mutual benefit to these deals that will have helped with negotiations.
Promising players such as Reilly (as well as our crop of academy graduates) will know they have an ideal opportunity to develop at Hearts and eventually put themselves in the shop window for bigger things later in their careers. Meanwhile, the club not only benefits from a higher quality of player in the team for a couple of years, it also reaps the financial benefit if those players move on for a transfer fee further down the line, which can only help push the club towards its ultimate goal of self-sufficiency.
Anyway, that’s all for today’s round-up. Hopefully there will be something newsworthy to digest in the next few days but, in the meantime, happy Friday and have a splendid weekend.
Originally published at maroonspecs.wordpress.com on June 26, 2015.