BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
NEW Hearts number one Zdenek Zlamal is adamant he is finally ready to settle down in Edinburgh after a host of brief foreign adventures.
The journeyman 32-year-old has been on the books of Udinese and Bari in Italy, Spanish outfit Cadiz and, most recently, endured an ill-fated 2016/17 campaign with Turkish cracks Alanyaspor.
However, he has struggled to find consistency and contentment outside his homeland of the Czech Republic, where he has turned out for the like of Sparta Prague, Slavia Prague and Sigma Olomouc.
After joining the Jambos on a three-year deal from FC Zlin, Zlamal is adamant Scotland will prove an exception. The towering stopper has already started to learn English, will be joined in the capital by his wife and children – and has even researched some local hikes.
“I have not lasted a long time at the clubs abroad but that is because they were not ideal for me,” said Zlamal. “However I have signed a contract for three years at Hearts because I believe it will be different and be my most successful foreign spell.
“This is the first time I have been abroad in time for the beginning of pre-season training, Before that, it was always at the end of the transfer window and the league was already running. This never helps.
“At Hearts, I will have a full month of training to adapt, familiarise myself with my teammates and arrange my private life. Then I can solely focus on football.
“I’m always searching for these opportunities. I love to travel and this will be a new experience for me. I have already sought out all the information about the city and the surrounding countryside so we can go for tourist walks. I am hoping to improve my English too.
“Every year we are somewhere else and my wife says that as soon as she finds friends and settles, we leave again! But, I think she likes the idea of Scotland, an English-speaking country and a great place for children. She did not like Turkey as much.”
Zlamal has been left in no doubt about the grueling pre-season that awaits him in Gorgie after meeting with boss Craig Levein, however, he is adamant the prize of succeeding Jon McLaughlin as the first-choice stopper at Hearts will be more than worth it.
“I had fun meeting the coach [Levein] and sports director [John Murray], they were all great and we had a few jokes,” continued Zlamal. “The coach told me that the first week of training for the goalkeepers is only running and that, every year, they hurt!
“We laughed and it was a friendly atmosphere from everyone at the club. It gave me the right impression and I am full of superlatives.
“Anyway, it is training that makes an athlete – those on the top work twice as hard as the average. You need to combine toil with talent.
“If I do well, I believe there is a vision of me as the number one. No one will guarantee the place, of course, but I felt that Hearts were taking me as a leader. They also told me that they would bring more competition, which I don’t mind. Competition is needed.”
A former teammate of Hearts icon Rudi Skacel, Zlamal is no stranger to Scottish football, adding: “It is evident that there are two huge clubs – Celtic and the Rangers. But never say never, when it comes to challenging them.
“There are many other good clubs and Hearts are definitely one. I think the standard of competition is much like the Czech League, which has real quality.”
Hearts fans have wasted to time in making Zlamal feel welcome as the capital club prepare to return to training next Thursday.
“Hearts supporters have already written private messages to me on social media,” he told fotbalisteexkluzivne. “I can already see that the people live for the club and the football culture is very important. That is a nice feeling and gives all players even more motivation.”