‘I know some people don’t rate me . . . and I’ll prove you wrong,’ Hearts’ Uche Ikpeazu ready to do ‘damage’ this season

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UCHE IKPEAZU is just a battering ram.

He can’t run.

He’s not fit enough.

The Hearts striker has heard the critics loud and clear. However, Ikpeazu is steadfast in his belief that the last laugh will be his.

Ikpeazu was unplayable in two pivotal fixtures for the Jambos. He scored the equaliser and lead the line admirably as Hearts defeated fierce foes Hibs 2-1 at Easter Road last Sunday.

He did not wish to be drawn on the deplorable racist abuse he received during that game.

Ikpeazu followed that up with an all-action showing as Craig Levein’s men defeated Aberdeen on penalties to reach the Betfred Cup semi-final in midweek.

He was sporting a burst lip after the bruising encounter – but insists he is the one ready to inflict damage this season.

Ikpeazu said: “You use that [criticism] to drive you on. There are some people in Scotland who don’t rate me and don’t think I’m any good. ‘Oh, he’s just a battering ram’.

“Well, everyone saw the quality on Wednesday and you’ll see more of it – the best is yet to come.
“All those who have opinions against me, I’ll prove you wrong. That’s just the mentality I’ve got. I’ve done it my whole career and I’ll keep doing it.

“Some people think I can run and that I’m not fit enough. Well, I carried on going on Wednesday.

“I know that on my day, I’m unplayable. I’ll prove that.”

Ikpeazu has a similar attitude towards the fierce critics of Hearts’ start to the season.

The pressure was being piled on boss Craig Levein after the Jambos slipped to the bottom of the Premiership following a home defeat against Motherwell earlier this month. Underperforming players were under the microscope.

He continued: “People have their own opinions. They will say ‘Hearts are this’, ‘Hearts are that’ and talk about individuals in our team in a negative way.

(Pic: Hearts FC)

“I respect everyone’s opinion but – I’ve said this from the get-go – we’ve got quality in this team. We’ll see in time.”

Ikpeazu was a revelation when he arrived from Cambridge United in the summer of 2018, scoring four goals in his first seven outings and winning over supporters with his potent mix of physicality, direct running and tireless work ethic.

His progress was derailed by a freak ankle injury and even when he recovered from that, the towering front-man was plagued by a persistent hamstring issue.

However, he reported for pre-season injury-free following a summer of hard graft and is adamant that he has never felt stronger.

Ikpeazu added: “I feel good, physically I’m ready and I feel like I’m going to do some damage.

“This is the strongest I’ve felt since coming here. I just needed a run of games and I’ve had that now. I want to score goals and assist goals in any way that I can.”

Hearts’ nerve-shredding triumph over Aberdeen secured a return to Hampden for the first time since May’s Scottish Cup final defeat to Celtic.

Ikpeazu was restricted to a role as a late substitute that afternoon due to his fitness issues – and that has only made him more determined to shine at the national stadium in his quest for silverware.

Trophy

He added: “We’re building a good record of getting to Hampden – but I want to win something.

“I want to lift a trophy with Hearts and that’s a massive objective for me. It’s one of the main reasons I came to this club.

“Getting to the Scottish Cup final only makes me more hungry. I wasn’t fully fit, I had a hamstring problem and wasn’t great. Now, I’m hoping to go back there, fully fit.

“I don’t fear any opposition. I’m feeling confident and we’ll see what happens against Rangers.”

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