BY DARREN JOHNSTONE @CCP_Sport
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson insists striker Juanma has been a target for opposition players since being branded a ‘typical foreigner’ on the first day of the season.
And as the Spaniard prepares to return from his two-game ban for tomorrow’s clash at Kilmarnock, Neilson has revealed how he has made Juanma watch footage of the tangles that have brought him to the attention of referees in a bid to improve his discipline.
Even before the marksman was shown a red card for shoving his head into St Johnstone midfielder David Wotherspoon’s a fortnight ago, the 25-year-old had amassed nine yellow cards.
It was against Saints on the opening weekend of the Premiership campaign that visiting defender Brad McKay claimed Juanma went down too easy.
But Neilson hopes Juanma, who has already netted nine goals in his maiden season in Scotland, has learned his lesson.
Neilson said: “We spoke to him recently and showed him videos of some of the stuff he has been involved in recently.
“When he actually sat down and looked at it, I think now he realises he needs to cut it out.
“And I’m pretty sure he will. He missed the Celtic game, which was a huge game.
“Will people wind him up? They’ve been doing that since the first game of the season.
“There was all the stuff splashed over the back page about him being a typical foreigner.
“He was in the headlines right away but he has to handle that, he’s at a big club now.
“He realises that whoever he plays against is going to target him.
“Referees will be looking for that, we’ll be looking for that, so it’s important he accepts it and handles it.
“He’s here to score goals, that’s it.
“The only way he can answer things and get the right headlines is by scoring goals.
“I think he understands that and he’ll do it.”
Neilson, meanwhile, admits he hopes Jamie Walker will be available by the end of January after the winger underwent surgery this week to mend the troublesome knee problem that has restricted him to only eight starts so far this term.
Neilson, whose side are now only seven points adrift of second place Aberdeen, added: “We thought it was tendon damage but when they went in it was just a floating bone.
“So they cut him open, took it out and stitched it up and that was it.
“Before he went down we were looking at six-to-eight weeks out and then he got surgery on his knee.
“The surgeon said it has gone really well. He was really pleased with it.
“It was quite simple. So it is possible he could be out for only two-three weeks, and he might be back playing by the end of January at the latest.”