Robbie Neilson tells Hearts captain Alim Ozturk to get “head right” & win starting berth back



HEARTS head coach Robbie Neilson insists club captain Alim Ozturk must “get his head right” and earn a Jambos recall.

Ozturk has not kicked a ball in anger since a miserable showing in the Jambos’ 3-2 Betfred Cup defeat against St Johnstone on August 10, during which he gave away a sloppy penalty kick.

In his absence, no-nonsense stopper Igor Rossi and the increasingly impressive John Souttar have thrived, establishing a promising partnership in the heart of defence.

robbie-neilson-newer“It’s been difficult for Alim,” acknowledged Neilson, who left Ozturk on the bench during Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at St Johnstone.

“But the two players that came in, Igor [Rossi] and John [Souttar], had to be patient at the start of the season as well.

“Now it is a case of Alim working hard and getting his head right.”

Ozturk, an arrival from Trabzonspor in the close season of 2014, was a smash hit in his first campaign in Gorgie, helping the club to the Championship title and scoring a famous long-range equaliser against Hibernian.

He was made skipper at the age of just 22 ahead of their first season back in the Premiership and made 28 appearances last term, however he has endured a miserable season so far.

Nevertheless, Neilson is adamant his squad possess ample “leaders”, even without their captain, after recruiting big personalities in the form of Scotland cap Don Cowie, Conor Sammon and American internationalist Perry Kitchen.

“I’ve got a few leaders in there,” continued Neilson. “We recruited Don [Cowie] in January, and he sets the tone in the way we play and how I want the players to be.

“Connor [Sammon] came in during the summer and is important, Perry Kitchen is another who leads by example. Those are probably the three that lead the team and there are others just behind them who drive the team as well.”