ARNAUD Djoum has loved people making a song and dance about his time in Scotland.
That was one of the reasons the former Belgium youth international decided pretty early in his time at Hearts that he would like to extend his stay.
But the 26-year-old, who arrived in September and originally penned a short-term deal, has also been swayed by what he has seen in training and on the park on match days, insisting there is a sense that the current squad could be capable of something special.
“We have a good team with a lot of good young players like Jamie Walker and Sam Nicholson and I think they’ll get better in time. Also with the experienced players in the side I think we can achieve something. You just have to work hard but I see in this team a lot of quality and I think within two years we can do great things.
“We have a great coach and he helps us a lot to work hard and fight and play good football. I think we can do something in this league.
“We started the league with a lot of new players but we won a lot of games and the start was good. With more time to connect, we can play better and play better football.
“We’re going to get better and with that for sure we can challenge at the top of the Scottish league. We are not so far from them at the moment.”
The midfielder, who is looking forward to welcoming his wife and young son to the capital now that he is settled, has impressed in his seven appearances, both in the middle of the park and as an auxiliary goalscorer.
He is the second player in two days to sign a new deal, which will keep him at the club until May 2017, following the lead set by defender Igor Rossi. It was not a difficult decision for the man who has adjusted quicker than he expected to the hurly burly of the Scottish game.
Having spent a chunk of his career in Holland where the tempo of the game is slower, he is thriving on the physicality, pace and more directness demanded by Scottish fans. Already he has weighed in with three goals and he admits that he has developed a taste for them and the ensuing celebrations. “Scottish teams like to attack more and it is not like Holland where they like to keep the ball and pass the ball a lot before you attack. They are more patient but in Scotland they like to score goals as fast as possible and that is the main difference in this league. I prefer to play this kind of style.
“Scoring goals has been the best part and my form. One of the best things about here is the supporters and the feeling you get when you play at Tynecastle. That is one of the best things that have happened to me in my career. When you score goals the fans sing your name and I think I have a song already. That feeling is amazing and I have never had that before and that is why I was happy to sign a new contract with Hearts.”
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s Boom! Shake the Room has served as the upbeat soundtrack to his Scottish success, but he is not the only summer signing striking the right chords and now that he has aligned himself to the Gorgie club for the remainder of the current campaign and the next, he says he will be trying to influence other key personnel to do the same, starting with fellow attacker Osman Sow.
“I think he is an important player for us and a nice guy and he has a lot of quality and you see that with his last goal,” he said. “It as a nice goal. Hopefully he can stay for a long time. I will tell him now that I have signed and that he has to sign also!”
The success Djoum envisages is dependent on improving the fitness of players who, like him, missed pre-season, as well as developing as individuals and a team. That is vital but so, too, is the retention of the club’s best players. If they can manage that, the future is promising. Currently third in the league, he isn’t getting carried away but he believes they can ultimately close in on Aberdeen and then Celtic.
“I think Celtic is the biggest team here, we have to be honest. But Celtic this year is not like Celtic before, they’re still big club with a lot of good players. But at Hearts, we cannot just think about challenging Celtic, we have to work hard, game after game and try to win a lot of games. In this way I think we can achieve something good but we should not put so much pressure on because that can be bad. We have a lot of young players, we need to keep calm and work hard. We’ll see what happens. Aberdeen have been together for some time and have played a lot of games and they have more experience but I think we can do something good which is why I’m happy to be here and to help be part of something with this club.”