BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
CRAIG LEVEIN insists the onus is on Danny Amankwaa to salvage his Hearts career – but is adamant he has not given up on the misfit winger.
Levein hailed Amankwaa’s arrival as a major coup when he signed the Denmark under-21 international from Copenhagen on an 18-month deal during the January transfer window.
However, the 24-year-old is yet to live up to the hype. His appearances in the second half of last term were underwhelming and, having posted disappointing results during pre-season fitness testing, has not started a single match this campaign.
Nevertheless, Levein has revealed that Amankwaa is showing signs of recapturing full fitness, while he has impressed for Hearts’ reserve side in recent fixtures. That has seen him brought on as a substitute in two of the Jambos’ last three games.
Asked whether Amankwaa could still make the impact he had hoped, Levein said: “That’s up to him. He’ll get left behind if he doesn’t maintain his standards. There is no doubting his ability. The rest of it is down to him – solely down to him.
“He’s been getting better. It has taken a while. The football here is completely different to what he has been used to and it’s been about getting him up to speed and allowing him to go on the field capable of doing what we’re asking him to do.
“He’ll be there or thereabouts soon.
“It [his struggles] was everything to do with his fitness and the type of running he needs to do off the ball as well as on it. We’re getting there. It has taken a hell of a long time, but he’s getting there.”
Meanwhile, Levein has vowed not to pitch Sean Clare into action until he can live up to the lofty expectations that have been set for him, emphasising that you do not get a second chance to make a first impression.
Clare, 22, was a marquee capture for the Jambos last month as the capital club shelled out around £140,000 for the highly-rated playmaker.
Hearts fought off competition from suitors south of the border for the ex-Sheffield Wednesday youngster, with Levein effusive in his praise for the player’s potential. However, he is yet to feature for the club as he battles back to full fitness following foot surgery in March.
And Levein is determined to ensure Clare proves to be worth the wait.
“There is a lot of expectation surrounding him and I’ve spoken very highly of him,” acknowledged Levein. “First impressions are important, so I only want him to play when he’s ready.
“He is improving all the time. He had an operation in March and has done a lot of work on his own, but I need to get him back into the daily hustle and bustle of training routines and give him time to find the confidence that his injury has recovered sufficiently for the rigours of day-to-day training.
“We are getting to that point. He has been good in training. However, I only want to put him in when he is ready.”