Hearts have scooped up the ex-Dundee United, Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle striker on a one-year deal.
Craig Fowler takes you through everything you need to know about the 20-year-old.
He doesn’t have a set position just yet
Muirhead’s versatility makes him an ideal target for Robbie Neilson. The Hearts boss likes to play around with different attacking systems and isn’t afraid to try players in a number of roles. Muirhead has experience in every attacking position in a 4-2-3-1 and it’s likely Neilson will look to use his new signing in the same manner he did with Osman Sow: sometimes as the lone striker, sometimes as part of a two-man unit and other times stationed out on the wing, where he can make late charging runs into the penalty area.
The potential downside to such an approach is that it could stunt Muirhead’s development. He was originally billed as a central striker when he first broke into the Kilmarnock side and certain observers believe his growth has stalled due to his constant shifting between the positions. Neilson would do well to adopt the same approach he used when John Souttar joined the club. Similar to his former Dundee United team-mate, Souttar was used in several positions without making any his own prior to his move to Tynecastle. Right from the off, Neilson stated Souttar was viewed as a centre back and this vote of confidence has helped the youngster flourish in a maroon jersey.
So where to station to newest recruit? At present the best use of his talents would likely be as the second striker in a 4-4-2 with a partner playing ahead of him, or playing as the No.10 in a 4-2-3-1. While he’s well-built for a 20-year-old, he can often be pushed off the ball by stronger defenders and needs to work on his game with his back to goal, a deficiency that would prevent him for featuring often as the lone attacker in a 4-2-3-1. He is a threat when driving the ball forward from deep as he capable of powerful and dynamic running despite his broad frame, though he lacks the pace associated with a traditional wide man.
He was once a transfer target of Celtic
Muirhead was released by Dundee United after failing to force himself into one of the worst team’s in the club’s history, so it’s safe to say he represents something of a gamble on Hearts’ part. However, it was only 18 months ago that it looked certain he was about to join the strongest team in the country when Celtic pursued him during the 2015 January transfer window.
The reigning champions would ultimately pull out on the deal after they managed to secure the signing of Dundee United duo Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong. United then used the money from that deal to prize Muirhead from Rugby Park, a transfer agreed without the consent of Killie boss Allan Johnston, which led to his departure from the Ayrshire club.
Muirhead’s stock has fallen dramatically since that day, as he largely sat in the stands at Tannadice and was in and out of the line-up in a five-month loan at Partick Thistle. However, it should be remembered that not so long ago he was looked upon as one of the brightest prospects in the country. Hearts have done a fine job developing a number of young players over the past two seasons and fans can rightly be confident they’ll do the same with Muirhead.
He’s a contrasting talent when compared with Gavin Reilly
Both players are young strikers, signed by the club with a view to developing their talents. That’s where the similarities end. Reilly was generally viewed by supporters as a player who made the most of his ability with a tremendous work rate, while Dundee United fans thought the opposite of Muirhead. Though it must be stressed that talk of a “bad attitude” from United supporters was nothing more than rumour on fans forums, seeing as the club paid £150,000 for the striker and then barely used him despite the side badly struggling, it’s easy to see why many have come to such conclusions. The one-year contract would suggest Hearts have their own reservations, despite his obvious talent, though they still see him as an upgrade on the outgoing Reilly who, sadly, might not possess the skill level to shine in the top flight.
Once nominated for UEFA goal of the season
He’s more than happy to shoot for a goal with either foot and though he’s not the most prolific of hitmen, he can pull a thunderous effort out of the bag every now and then, as evidenced by the effort for the Scotland under-19s that saw him nominated for UEFA’s goal of the season alongside Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar in 2015. It’s a strike well worth checking out. On the domestic front he’s bagged a few more beauties, though he’ll be looking to add to his modest total of eight strikes in 68 senior appearances. A scorer of great goals rather than a great goalscorer, yer da’ might say.
He’s not afraid to speak his mind on social media
He’s been the source of mirth among opposing fans for some, erm, forthright views on social media. Most notably, he’s tweeted on a couple of occasions his opinion that the 9/11 terror attacks on the Twin Towers were a conspiracy perpetrated by the US Government. Hearts would probably prefer that he tries harder to keep more of a low profile while he’s contracted to play at Tynecastle.