BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
WHEN Arnaud Djoum addressed the assembled media earlier this week, he did so blissfully unaware that he was previewing what would prove to be Robbie Neilson’s final match as Hearts head coach.
Neilson is the man who brought Djoum to Tynecastle last September, snapping up the former Roda JC and Akhisar Belediyespor man on a free transfer after an ill-fated stint at Lech Poznan culminated with him on the scrapheap.
His upwards trajectory since then has been largely unbroken, scoring nine goals, earning a new contract and forcing his way into the full Cameroon squad.
Along with Igor Rossi and Osman Sow, Djoum will go down as one of Neilson’s finest purchases.
So one suspects a grateful Djoum will be especially determined to give Neilson a fitting send-off tonight as he nears a switch to MK Dons. Moreover, he is adamant Hearts have the quality to prove money is not everything against Rangers.
“I’ve seen a lot of them on TV and they have quality,” said the 27-year-old. “In this league they will be the second, third or fourth team in the league – similar to us in that fight.
“But if we play to our best then we have a great chance to win. They are big team but we are a good team and have a chance to get the result.
“We want to do a better job than last season and that’s why we are aiming for second place. This game can show to everyone that we are serious contenders for that and we will do all we can to win.
“Football is not only about the money. The difference between us and Rangers right now is not big and we want to prove on Wednesday that’s it’s not all about the money. It’s about the players and how we perform.
“They are a good team but the like to play football, so there should be quite a few spaces. It will be a good game for the strikers and attackers so it’s about making the most of that space.”
While Djoum has lofty ambitions for Hearts as a club, he is no less demanding with the expectations he places on himself as he seeks to mould his performances on his footballing idol, Zinedine Zidane.
In doing so, he hopes to catch the eye of national boss Hugo Broos ahead of next month’s African Cup of Nations
“At the start of the season I played as a number 10 and it’s a position I like,” continued Djoum. “You have more freedom to go forward and create chances and make passes and assists
“You can roam where you want and try to make the difference. When I was growing up everyone knew the number 10 was the playmaker. Zinedine Zidane for me was the ideal number 10 and I always wanted to play like him.
“It’s good for me to play well as the national manager is watching all these games. When I play versus Rangers I’m sure he will watch on TV and that makes it important for me to put in a good performance.
“It would be a huge thing for me. to play in that competition. I will do everything to show up well.”