BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTS hero Ryan McGowan admits watching his Socceroo pal Jamie Maclaren run riot with Hibs was bittersweet.
So, he is delighted to see the Jambos roll back the years by assembling an Australian contingent of their own.
Craig Levein made Oliver Bozanic – a teammate of McGowan at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil – his third Aussie capture of the summer on Wednesday.
Promising left-back Ben Garuccio has penned a three-year deal after joining from A-League outfit Adelaide United, while Ryan Edwards made the switch from Partick Thistle.
The influx of talent from Down Under is a throwback to when McGowan was on the books at Tynecastle with his brother, Dylan, Matthew Park and Rocky Visconte. Prior to that, Patrick Kisnorbo made his name in British football with a stint in Gorgie.
“Maybe I’m a little biased, but I reckon the more Aussies are in the team, the better Hearts will do,” smiled McGowan.
“It’s nice to see some Australian influence just like back in the day . . . especially after Hibs had it last season with Jamie [Maclaren]
“I remember Jamie actually called me when he had interest from both Hearts and Hibs, and I told him they were both great clubs. I don’t think you realise how big they both are until you have worked and lived in Edinburgh and experienced the pressure and expectation.
“Jamie handled that brilliantly and did really well, scoring a few goals and playing himself onto a World Cup, As a mate, I’m really happy he performed so well – it’s just a shame it was for Hibs!”
Bozanic, boasting seven caps, undoubtedly possesses the most impressive pedigree of the arrivals and McGowan is certain he will prove a massive hit in Gorgie, on and off the pitch.
“Oliver is a really good guy and will be a superb addition to the dressing room – I don’t doubt for a minute that he’ll fit in at Hearts and be a big personality in there,” continued McGowan.
“The fans will take to him. He’s a really busy little midfielder who is tidy on the ball and likes to time his runs and get forward – he could be a real threat in the Premiership next season and will be really hungry to make a mark in British football.”
While he has never shared a dressing room with Garuccio, McGowan is acutely aware of his potential.
The 23-year-old was a teammate of Dylan McGowan at Adelaide United and, as he lent support to his sibling, Ryan could not help but be impressed by the efforts of the precocious young left-back.
And he is adamant Garuccio’s upbringing in Southern Australia will give him the grit to be a smash hit at Hearts.
“I think sometimes Scottish kids don’t realise how lucky they are, they have 16 league clubs within a three-hour drive,” he continued. “For us growing up in Adelaide, we had one professional club and the next one was a two-hour flight away.
“It means that if you are from that area, you need to make sure you are the hardest working person in the room and you want it more than anyone else.
“You find that with most Aussie players – they have that drive and passion because we’ve only got one slim chance to make it.
“Joining Hearts is an amazing opportunity for Ben to break into Europe and use it as a platform. That will open a lot of doors that are closed to you when you are playing in Australia.
“Ben has great energy, a great delivery from the left flank and will create a lot of chances for the boys in the box, which is what Craig Levein is after. The most important thing is he is willing to listen, learn and never gives anything less than 100 per cent.”
McGowan spent a spell on loan with Partick Thistle in 2011 as he emerged through the youth ranks at Hearts, meaning he is exceptionally well placed to analyse the challenge facing Edwards, who arrives in the capital following three years in Maryhill.
He added: “People can sometimes excel, or they can shrink when they join Hearts. I think Ryan will raise his game, in the knowledge that he needs to play at a certain level consistently.
“Hearts players need to be at least seven out of ten every week, or you’ll hear about it from the fans! I think he’ll relish that and be another really good signing.”