CRAIG LEVEIN has revealed that Ryotaro Meshino is studying English three times a week as the Hearts boss hailed the youngster’s personality and potential.
Meshino, 21, has become an immediate fans’ favourite following his arrival on loan from Manchester City, with his trickery, creativity and fearless style illuminating an otherwise underwhelming campaign for the Jambos to date.
He has already claimed a goal and an assist from his six outings for the Tynecastle outfit and was rewarded for his progress with a maiden call-up to Japan’s U22 side to face Brazil on October 14.
Meshino’s immediate impact is all the more startling given he only joined City from Gamba Osaka in August, with the ‘bubbly’ starlet immediately embracing an almighty culture change, on and off the pitch.
Levein said: “He isn’t fluent in English but he is taking lessons three times a week and that has improved. I think that will help him.
“The boys are teaching him a few words in the dressing room that maybe they shouldn’t be teaching him!
“But he is a bubbly wee character.
“This is a fair change in culture, it’s quite a distance away from his home, it’s a different language.
“Most foreign players who come to the UK, particularly from Japan, are very unlikely to be speaking fluent English.
“So he’s got the to contend with, plus the football and the weather. Yet, he has been more to forefront in the dressing room that I would have thought.”
Levein is particularly enamoured by Meshino’s durability in the rough-and-tumble surroundings of Scottish football.
Despite coming from the J-League, which is far less bruising and more technical, the diminutive forward has shown a willingness to charge into 50/50s and any time he has been felled, he bounces straight back to his feet.
Levein smiled: “That’s one of the things about him I like. His attitude is first-class.
“He doesn’t roll about and feign injury. He wants to score and a lot of times he does get fouled but tries to keep going.
“It’s more important for him to score than to get a free-kick.
He added: “He has taken a little bit of time to get up to full speed and I don’t think he is there yet. There is no doubt he has helped us. I’m really excited about how much he can help us going forward.”
Meanwhile, Levein has revealed that Meshino had options elsewhere on the continent before choosing to spend the season on loan at Tynecastle.
Hearts enjoy a positive relationship with City and have previously used that link to bring defender Ashley Smith-Brown north of the border. However, Levein says the decision to head to Edinburgh was driven by the player, not his parent club.
He added: “The fact Ryo chose to come here was a big plus for me.
“Sometimes you get players on loan because their club wants them to go on loan but the player himself isn’t 100 per cent sure. That’s never a particularly good situation.
“He did have another couple of options which he did go and investigate but I know he wants to be here.”