Juanma not the answer

Robbie Neilson insists frozen-out frontman Juanma is not the answer to Hearts’ striking crisis.

The Jambos boss signed four new strikers during the summer but so far Tony Watt, Conor Sammon, Robbie Muirhead and Bjorn Johnsen have netted just four goals between them.

Yet Tynecastle boss Neilson reckons they are all better than Spanish hitman Juanma – currently back in his homeland after joining second division outfit UCAM Murcia on a season-long loan.

The former Alaves forward hit 13 goals for the Jambos last term, but Neilson has ruled out recalling the 26-year-old in January.

He said: “Juanma is there until the end of the season so we will deal with that next summer.

“It is up to the club that he moved to what happens next but the situation at the moment is that I feel we have better strikers here than (bringing him back) would offer us.”

Hearts are currently four games without a win but their head coach is relaxed about his strikers’ form.

And he warned the Gorgie faithful it could take some of their new signings, like New York-born American-Norwegian Johnsen, 12 months to find their feet in Scotland.

Neilson, who confirmed he is looking to add a left-sided midfielder to his squad in the January transfer window, said: “It’s still early in the season. We’re still only a third of the way through, 13 games in. It’s not a huge issue at the minute.

“The guys are working hard, creating chances and working for the team. It will click in soon because they are all good players. There is no issue there at all.

“It’s like anything in football, though – you get judged game to game. You bring a new player in and he is judged within two minutes of his first touch of the ball.

“But it can take players coming in here up to a year to settle in. You’re asking guys, some of them from different continents, to come to Scotland and somehow just click into 100mph football on astroturf. It’s difficult.

“The fans may not want to give players that time but it is my job to manage the expectations and the pressure on the player.”

With their strikers struggling to find the net, Hearts have been relieved to see right-back Callum Paterson chipping in with goals.

The 21-year-old has pounced seven times already this term, including his recent last-gasp strikes against Hamilton and St Johnstone which twice rescued Hearts a draw.

A queue of English clubs are now expected to battle for the Scotland defender, but Neilson insists his club can afford to hold on to Paterson until his contract expires at the end of the campaign.

The Jambos will be due a compensation fee worth around £450,000 and Neilson, speaking before his side welcome Motherwell to Edinburgh on Saturday, said: “It’s not inevitable that Callum will go in January. We had an offer in the summer and we knocked it back.

“So it depends what level the offers come in at in January. We do not need to sell.

“If it goes to the end of the season when his contract is up, we’ll get compensation, so unless they put in more money than compensation is worth then there’s no point in selling.

“So the (£450,000 figure) is the starting point.

“I’m not going to put valuation on players but if you start getting a battle between two English teams you don’t know where the fee will go.”

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