Edinburgh and Glasgow like night and day to Hearts’ Isma Goncalves

Isma Goncalves has had to adapt, along with the rest of the Hearts squad, to an unusual and difficult start to the season. Picture: SNS.
Isma Goncalves has had to adapt, along with the rest of the Hearts squad, to an unusual and difficult start to the season. Picture: SNS.
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Today sees the latest tussle between east and west as Hearts play host to Rangers. But regardless who comes out on top on the pitch, Tynecastle striker Isma Goncalves says, for him, there is no doubting that Edinburgh has more to offer than Glasgow.

Having spent time in the country’s second city, while playing at St Mirren, in 2013, the Portuguese forward believes life is better now that he has settled in the capital.

On the pitch, he and Hearts have gathered themselves after a poor end to last season and a tumultuous beginning to this one and, despite the disappointment of the midweek derby defeat, they could vault up the league standings if they beat Rangers in today’s lunch-time kick-off. Off the park, he says life in Edinburgh appeals.

“In Scotland, you have two ways of life here, and the Edinburgh one suits me better than Glasgow. The people are nice here and the city is nice and there are a lot of students here; it is more multicultural here.

“There is one Portuguese person I speak to every time I go to the supermarket. I lose 30 minutes speaking to him!

“In Glasgow, I was just living at night time and during the day I was sleeping. But, in Edinburgh, I can see more of life and what it is like at day.”

He laughed when asked if he should be called Dracula due to the partying lifestyle he enjoyed throughout his first spell in Scotland and he admitted it once was an apt nom de plume. “At the time, yes, I only came out at night! But not any more.”

Now, although still seeking his best form this term, he has a city to explore and a sense of harmony that can not be dulled by the Scottish weather.

“The weather is grey here. But I like that. I didn’t like the sun,” said the 26-year-old. Which is just as well because it never rains but it pours. The meteorological metaphor applies perfectly to life at Hearts at the moment. Managerial upheaval at the start of the term coincided with the banishment from their own ground as redevelopment works extended beyond the original deadline, forcing players to adapt to a long run of away days.

In recent weeks they have also had to contend with injuries to key players and the fact that the subsequent midfield shake-ups have limited the supply up to strikers such as Goncalves.

Young Harry Cochrane has been asked to step in and fill the void and, while Goncalves believes the 16-year-old he jokingly refers to as Miniesta will go far – “although I can’t really compare him to Iniesta because I never saw him at Harry’s age, I think he likes it and I do think he is very good” – there is a need for more experienced creative players in that department.

But this afternoon they will face a side dealing with their own issues. The high demands at Rangers have cost Pedro Caixinha his job, leaving interim manager Graeme Murty with just 48 hours to prepare the side for today’s meeting with Hearts. They also have injuries to the likes of Graham Dorrans to contend with, while Bruno Alves failed to have his suspension overturned.

Caixinha’s departure has opened the door for players such as Kenny Miller, who had been ostracised, but with a new man at the helm, the summer imports will have to show a greater grasp of what is needed in the Scottish game, and do it quickly, or they will be the ones on the sidelines.

Goncalves has a degree of sympathy for the new arrivals, though, many coming from Portugal. “For me, it was different. When I came here I was already used to moving. I had already been in France and Portugal and also Scottish football was my kind of football. So, for me, it was easier to adapt the first time I came here. But for people who don’t know Scottish football, it can be hard because it is tough football, you have to be strong, and the other players are strong so it can be difficult to adapt here.”