BY DARREN JOHNSTONE @CCP_Sport
Hearts captain Alim Ozturk admits he will not be content with a place on the bench after ending his three-month lay-off in Wednesday’s compelling win over Dundee United.
The central defender made his first outing since September after recovering from a second hernia operation.
In the Dutch player’s absence, summer recruits Blazej Augustyn and Igor Rossi formed a solid defensive partnership.
But having been an unused substitute for the recent games against Aberdeen and Celtic, Ozturk replaced Augustyn for the 3-2 win over United and 23-year-old has no intention of giving up his place without a fight.
Ozturk, who is eyeing a second successive start in today’s trip to Kilmarnock, added: “Blazej and Igor did well but I have confidence in myself and I am the captain of the club.
“I’m back and I want to play, we’ll see what is going to happen.
“It is no problem for me. I have confidence in myself.
“I don’t think there’s been too many changes to the team since I’ve been out but it was a good feeling to be back because they’ve played a lot of games without me.
“I was really happy I could play on Wednesday.
“I realised how much I missed it. Those three months are frustrating and even when you’re sitting on the bench against Celtic – you want to play.”
Ozturk made his return to action in a manic match against United, with all five goals and two penalty kicks being shared during an action-packed first half.
United also had Mark Durnan sent off being half-time for hauling down Gavin Reilly in a last-man challenge.
But Ozturk loved every minute of it on his return to the first team.
He added: “It was a really strange game, we started with the penalty in the second minute.
“We came back really well and I think we played really well.
“At 3-1 I thought it would maybe be four or five in the first half then they got their second goal.
“Against the ten men, you have to go for goal number four, five to make it easier for yourself and we missed so many chances.
“After every chance I was like, ‘yeah, oh no’. We must be more clever but we got the three points so we’re happy for that.”
Ozturk, who joined Hearts in summer 2014 from Turkish side Trabzonspor, insists he has no concerns about playing on Kilmarnock’s synthetic surface this afternoon despite his recent injury woe.
He added: “I don’t care because I played 90 minutes for the Under-20s on a plastic pitch at Riccarton a couple of weeks ago. It’s not a problem.
“The question for me was when I played for the first team, how would it feel after the game?
“I feel good, I played 90 and I didn’t struggle. Fitness-wise it felt good.”