BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Alim Ozturk reckons Juanma’s new barnet is so bad he should fine the Spaniard for daring to sport it in public.
However, the Hearts skipper has backed the bustling striker to give SPFL defenders plenty more hair-raising experiences as he becomes accustomed to the Scottish game.
Juanma, sporting an eye-catching white mohawk against the Dons, proved he was a cut above the opposition with a deadly double in the 2-1 win, bullying Mark Reynolds and Ash Taylor throughout the contest.
Ozturk certainly doesn’t think much of Juanma’s new look – and is adamant top-flight stoppers will soon be dreading the sight of the big forward, too.
The 23-year-old laughed: “I don’t like the haircut – he walked in to the dressing room and I was shocked . . . I think I am allowed to fine him for that as captain!
“First it was blonde, now it is white. Maybe it is a cultural thing in Spain. But that is Juanma – he is definitely not shy.”
However, Ozturk is deadly serious when he lauds Juanma for the intensity and power he brings to the front-line when he is on top form.
That sight has been all-too rare for the Jambos in 2016. Prior to Friday night he had scored just one goal this year. However, he was back to his bruising best against the Dons.
Ozturk lauded: “When you look at how Juanma played against Aberdeen, he was running everywhere, he held up the ball and it was very important to our performance.
“I think it is important for him, too. It is his first season here and he needs time to adapt.
“He drives us on and motivates others. On Friday night, the young boys can look at him and say ‘this is what you need’. You can play nice football, but sometimes you need to fight on the pitch and gamble.
“That is what you get from Juanma, and you need that character in a young team. I prefer to have guys like him in my team. You play against men, not boys, and you need to be ready for that.
“We were always behind Juanma during the difficult spell and we tried to support him. People expect strikers to score a goal in every game but it is not that easy. We never doubted he was a good player and he will get better and better.”
To emerge victorious from such a high-intensity fixture was made all the more remarkable given Hearts had just one day of training under their belt last week due to the bout of gastroenteritis which laid low 17 players.
The Jambos now have Aberdeen firmly in their sights. A win against Inverness on Tuesday – the fixture which was rearranged due to the outbreak – would see Hearts move to within six points of Aberdeen.
“There were so many guys ill, so the fact we put in a performance like that just shows the character in the team. Everybody wants to run and fight for each other,” said Ozturk.
“That was maybe a reason we started slowly against Aberdeen, but in the last 70 minutes we showed we were better than them. But if we don’t follow it up with a win on Tuesday then it doesn’t matter. We want to keep the pressure on them.”