BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Alim Ozturk is dreaming of leading Hearts into Europe next season after insisting the Tynecastle club boast the perfect mix of silk and steel.
The build-up to their 6-0 demolition of Motherwell last week was dominated by analysis of the Jambos’ perceived physicality, with manager Mark McGhee vowing not to be bullied by their “robust” hosts
That came hot on the heels of criticism from Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes and Dons duo Adam Rooney and Jonny Hayes.
However, Hearts made a mockery of suggestions they were more brawn than brain, with a flowing, creative and clinical display against the hapless Steelmen.
And, as they prepare to travel to ‘Well’s local rivals, Hamilton, this afternoon, Ozturk is adamant the capital club have the balance just right.
The 23-year-old said: “Most people they look at us, at our size and think ‘they’re just fighters’ but it’s not like that in our team.
“People look at our back four, Juanma and Osman Sow. All big guys, but we can play as well. We can play good football
“If you are just physicality, then it’s easy for the other team, but we have both so that makes it difficult for the opposition. We can play with strength and we can play good football too.
“Sometimes you need to fight and other times you get time to play, that is what football is about. I think we showed that really well in the last two games against Motherwell and Aberdeen.”
It is impossible to argue with results on the pitch for Robbie Neilson’s men, with Hearts well on course to secure a return to Europe in their first season back in the top-flight since their relegation in 2013/14.
Currently in third spot, they are hot on the heels of second-placed Aberdeen in what has become a fascinating tussle between the two sides this season.
Consequently, Ozturk, who joined the club last summer when they were a Championship outfit, has already cast his mind toward the prospect of a tilt at the Europa League next season.
The former Cambuur and Trabzonspor defender said: “Leading Hearts into Europe was one of the things I thought about when I heard I was being made captain in the summer.
“We are going the right way for that to happen. I have not played in Europe before so it would be very special, especially as captain of Hearts, so I hope we can do it.
“Even in the Championship I always thought something like that would be possible because of the size of the club.
“My agent told me that this club is one of the biggest in Scotland so it was always something I thought could be possible. But I probably didn’t expect it in two years!”
Hearts return to Hamilton with a score to settle after succumbing to their first defeat of the season at New Douglas Park in August, ending a run of six successive league wins.
Callum Paterson was dismissed by Willie Collum during a tempestuous contest – the red card was subsequently rescinded – as the Jambos fell to a 3-2 defeat.
Ozturk added: “We learned a lot there last time. But what happened, happened and we’re now looking to the future. We want to make amends and win there this time.”