BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Robbie Neilson concedes that Hearts were able to attract former Serie A defender Blazej Augustyn to Tynecastle largely due to his history of injury woes.
The Jambos head coach reckons the Premiership newcomers have landed a massive coup by snapping up the former Poland under-21 international, lauding his pace, power and pedigree.
Neilson is adamant Augustyn would already be playing in one of Europe’s top leagues if he had not suffered cruciate ligament damage in both knees during an interrupted career.
Hearts still had to beat Legia Warsaw and newly-crowned Polish champions Lech Poznan to the player’s signature after choosing to leave Gornik Zabrze at the end of the season.
And Neilson is more than willing to take a gamble on a player who boasts stints with Bolton, Vicenza, Rimini, Catania and Legia on a varied CV.
Neilson said candidly: “He done his cruciate in both knees – but we’re in Scotland, so there’s always going to be something [negative] if you are going to get a top player. It’s our job to manage him properly and get the best out of him.
“He is somebody we’d heard about a while ago. He’s got a physical presence at six-foot-three, he’s quick, strong and good in the air.
“As well as that, he is aggressive, a good tackler and a good passer of the ball. He really does have all the attributes to be a top player. He’s played in the Polish league, in England and in Serie A, so he’s got a good pedigree.”
While Hearts remain in the market for another defender, Augustyn is perceived as a ready made replacement for Danny Wilson, who rejoined former club Rangers this week.
After captaining the Jambos to the Championship title last term, many onlookers were shocked to see the classy stopper agree to spend another campaign in Scotland’s second tier.
But, weighing into the debate for the first time, Neilson says the switch to Ibrox is a “great” for Wilson.
He continued: “I’m pleased for Danny. He did fantastic for us last season and to get a three-year contract at a club like Rangers is great for him. I’m sure he’ll do well.
“I have a great relationship with Danny, he was great for me and I wouldn’t say anything bad about him at all. He could’ve left Hearts [after relegation] but decided to stay and got the club promoted. We wish him all the best. Whenever he comes back here, he’ll be held in high esteem.
“I know Mark Warburton quite well – I was at Brentford for six months as a player and Mark was the assistant manager. I got on really well with him and I’m sure he’ll do a good job at Rangers.”
Meanwhile, Spanish striker Juanma is on course to be confirmed as a Hearts player today.