BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Alim Ozturk has immediately set his sights on emulating Danny Wilson by leading Hearts to a trophy after he was named the new Jambos club captain.
The popular Turk, who still just 22 years of age, was announced as the successor to the departed Wilson yesterday following a sensational debut season in Scottish football.
An arrival from Trabzonspor last summer, Ozturk went on to make 36 appearances for the capital club during their march to the Championship title, even cementing his place in derby-day folklore with a 40-yard wonder-goal against Hibs at Easter Road.
Having emerged as a vocal leader in the dressing room, head coach Robbie Neilson has handed him the armband after a period of deliberation which saw him also consider Neil Alexander, Morgaro Gomis and Blazej Augustyn.
Ozturk has been humbled by the honour and is already dreaming of holding aloft silverware – just like his predecessor.
He said: “It will be hard to win a trophy, but it is an ambition, maybe even a dream of mine now. You’re the first one who gets to lift the trophy up and it would be an amazing feeling – It’s in my mind now.
“When Danny Wilson was lifting the trophy last year, I didn’t think about how much I’d like to be in that position, but I am now!
“The captaincy means a lot for me. It’s an honour and something special to captain a club of this size. I will do my best to represent Hearts as well as possible.”
Given his tender age and limited experience of Scottish football, Ozturk’s appointment raised a few eyebrows.
He is adamant his pedigree in Turkish and Dutch football will stand him in good stead as he prepares to implement lessons learned under previous skippers, including Wilson.
However, he does acknowledge that he will have to keep a lid on his temper now that he is leading the side.
Ozturk continued: “A captain always has more responsibilities. Last year sometimes I’d get what I would call a stupid yellow card. If there were hard tackles on my team-mates I would go to the referee to argue and stuff like that.
“I need to be calm. I know it’s something I have to think about now. Robbie [Neilson] has told me I have more and more responsibility and that he believes in me. I think that will bring out the best in me.
“I am still 22 but I feel I have a lot of experience for my age from playing in Turkey, Holland and now Scotland. I’ve had a few good captains and you always pick little things up from them that can make you a better player.
“Danny Wilson was a really good captain last year – he helped me a lot in my first year.”
Ozturk, who had stomach surgery during the close season, has played just 25 minutes of the Jambos’ pre-season after limping off against Shelbourne during the club’s Irish training camp.
However, with a return against Everton on Sunday in his sights, he has assured supporters he will be ready to take his competitive bow as skipper in the League Cup tie against Arbroath in seven days’ time.
He added: “I played 25 minutes in Ireland and my stomach surgery was OK, but my thigh had a small problem. I have trained for the last week and I hope to start against Everton.
“I feel good and I hope to be able to lead the team out against Arbroath for my first match as captain.”