MICHAEL NGOO is forever being ribbed by team-mates about his poor sense of direction – but one thing the striker has already proved is that he certainly knows the way to goal.
The on-loan Liverpool forward has become an instant hit with Hearts supporters after netting three times in the four games that he has played so far for the Tynecastle club.
The 20-year-old arrived in Edinburgh during the January transfer window after agreeing a temporary deal that will see him stay in Gorgie until the end of the season, along with fellow new boy Danny Wilson – also on loan from Liverpool.
However, Hearts fans are already clamouring for their club to look at the possibility of increasing the length of Ngoo’s loan deal after he hit the goals trail and helped them book a place in next month’s Scottish League Cup final.
If the fans are loving having him at the club though, that’s nothing to Ngoo’s delight at getting himself a run of first-team games and a few goals into the bargain.
Former Hearts player and radio pundit, Allan Preston, also works as an agent for the firm which represents Ngoo and he revealed that the young player has been delighted by the start to his career in Scotland.
While Ngoo has a reputation for getting lost, it certainly seems that he feels right at home at Tynecastle. Preston said: “I spoke to him just the other day and he is delighted with how things have been going. He was saying that this week he would have been playing for the Liverpool reserves against Tottenham in front of a crowd no bigger than a couple of hundred.
“So to be involved up here on a regular basis and in cup semi-finals and in front of packed crowds at Tynecastle, he just couldn’t have asked for anything better at this stage. He has scored three goals already and could possibly have had five or six so far if things had gone his way. If, by the end of the season, Hearts are successful in the Cup final, can push themselves up the table and Michael can get himself up to eight or ten goals, that would be a terrific return.
“Between them Danny and Michael created and scored the goal that got them to the Cup final, it was made in Liverpool. I think the fans realise how important that goal was for the club.
“The two boys are good friends and Danny is always having a go at Michael because he says he gets lost all the time.
“He ended up at the Kings Theatre recently when he was supposed to be at Tynecastle – but I think he could be forgiven for that if he continues to play the way that he has been recently.”
At the beginning of the transfer window it had looked as though the sanctions placed on Hearts by the SFA for failing to pay their players on time would scupper their chances of seriously strengthening their pool of players.
But Preston believes that the signings of Ngoo and Wilson have been a sharp piece of business by Hearts boss John McGlynn and his backroom team.
He continued: “The Hearts coaching staff had really done their homework. John McGlynn, Gary Locke and John Murray, over the last six months, had been taking a lot of Under-21 games.
“They had seen both Danny and Michael playing in a game against Middlesbrough and had been impressed by them. After that it was just a case of speaking to the players and to Liverpool to see if anything could be agreed, bearing in mind the restrictions that had been placed on Hearts.
“With the sanctions that were placed on Hearts, I don’t think that they could have done any better than bring in guys of the quality of Danny Wilson and Michael Ngoo.
“I think that it was a surprise to a lot of people in and around the game that Hearts managed to get them in. I mean, Danny had already played in the SPL with Rangers, he has got Champions League experience and has also played in the English Premier League.
“As for Michael, probably the majority of football fans in Scotland would not have not heard of him before he came to Hearts but he had caught the eye of both Liverpool and Manchester United and in the end went to Anfield for around £300,000 from Southend.
“They don’t make many mistakes.
“They obviously saw something in him and I think that he is just starting to show the Hearts supporters what he can do.”
The young striker has certainly made his presence felt in a short period of time and the Hearts fans, not to mention McGlynn and Co, will be delighted to see some of the chances that they have been creating finally turn into goals.
Thousands of the club’s supporters sang his praise after he scored the winner in their League Cup semi-final against Inverness at Easter Road but Preston revealed that Ngoo is a humble character who is just happy to be playing first-team football on a regular basis.
However he qualified that modest streak by stressing that the player also has a steely determination to succeed at the very top level in the game.
Preston continued: “He is a young lad, he’s just 20 years old and he was just waiting for his chance.
“He was scoring goals for the reserves and when the embargo came on he was one John McGlynn and John Murray asked the question to get him up. Fortunately for Hearts, Liverpool kindly said yes.
“He’s a nice lad, very humble, very quietly spoken – but also very determined.
“He knows what he wants from a game. He is quite critical of himself and likes to ask how you think that he has performed in games.
“First and foremost, as long as the team is winning and he is getting a regular game, then he will be happy.
“He had three efforts against Dundee United on Saturday, hit the bar and then scored towards the end of the game as well. He is a big guy, he’s 6ft 5in and physically very strong but he would be the first to admit that he can do better in the air.
“If Hearts can get a midfield player to run off him, they will score a lot of goals.
“He has got really good control, he’s loving being here as part of a first team and playing in the home games is going to be good for him, particularly if the fans turn out in their numbers.
“As far as I can see, it is a win-win situation for both parties. You can get some guys who are happy to just sit there, play for the reserves and train with the guys of standard of the likes of Steven Gerrard or Jamie Carragher every day.
“But Michael wants to be out there playing games on a Saturday himself.
“He couldn’t believe the crowd that turned out at Easter Road for the semi-final.
“They kept shouting his name. At one point there was about 14,000 people singing for him and he thinks that is great because he’s never had that before. When I first spoke to him about coming up to play for Hearts he had never even been up to Scotland.
“I think prior to moving to Edinburgh the furthest north he had been was Newcastle but so far it is proving to be a good move for him.
“He loves the place, the people and talks really highly about everyone involved with the club.”