BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTS star Conor Sammon reckons his burgeoning partnership with Tony Watt has echoes of his rapport with mercurial playmaker Alexei Eremenko.
The towering Irishman scored 18 goals in the first half of the 2010/11 campaign for Kilmarnock as he benefitted from the creative spark provided by the classy Finland internationalist.
Sammon’s strike-rate earned him a £600,000 switch to Wigan Athletic mid-way through that season.
While aware that Watt lacks the languid guile of Eremenko, he can see similarities in the way the ex-Celtic youngster drops deep to find space and create chances for others – and he believes they have the makings of an “exciting” duo.
“The early signs are very good. We’re a good fit with each other,” lauded Sammon. “Tony likes to drop in between midfield and up front and that suits me down to the ground because I want to play on the last man.
“He’s got the ability as well to pick up the ball, get turned, beat a few men and play a through ball. I think the more opportunities we get to play with each other on the training ground, it can only grow.
“[Alexei] Eremenko in my time at Kilmarnock was comparable, although he wasn’t a striker or a front-man, the similarities are that he had so much skill and ability and he could play a through ball as well.
“David McGoldrick at Ipswich Town, as well, was that natural sort of player.
“I think Tony’s got an awful lot going in his game. He shows pace and power as well, he’s not just the kind of player who needs everything to his feet. He’s a real talent.”
Watt’s form may have hogged the headlines – and earned a Scotland call-up for the recent World Cup qualifier against Malta – but Sammon has also turned in several fine displays during the Jambos’ recent three-game winning run.
And, reborn after falling out of favour at Derby, he admits that waking up on Saturday morning is a joy when he thinks about leading the line for Robbie Neilson’s side.
He smiled: “We are playing the right sort of way, working hard without the ball and creating chances with the ball. There are so many positives and we are still very early in the season.
“We are still getting to know each other but it is really good signs for the rest of the season to come.
“The performances and results are hugely satisfying. I find myself waking up on a Saturday morning feeling really excited to get the opportunity to go and play.
“I would probably say the early stages of my time at Derby was the last time I was this excited.
“But now, even off the pitch, I feel really, really settled. My wife is from Scotland so it is more settling for her. It’s the whole package.”
Things could get even better for Sammon this afternoon, with Hearts set to claim top spot in the Premiership – for one day, at least – if they defeat St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.
Sammon added: “We are second just now, which is a really good start to the season and it is a great opportunity to go and lay down another marker and go one step better.
“We know it will be difficult going up to St Johnstone, having played them in the League Cup not so long ago and getting beat [3-2] by them. That is a great motivation for us to go there and try to reverse that result.”