MORGARO Gomis may have swapped top-flight football for life in the Championship with Hearts, but the experienced midfielder is adamant he has not taken a step down in quality.
The Senegal international penned a three-year deal with the capital club last week, becoming their first signing since exiting administration. He has since been joined by two forwards, James Keatings and Soufian El Hassnaoui, at Tynecastle.
Gomis, 28, made 16 league appearances for Dundee United last season as Jackie McNamara’s men secured a fourth-placed finish and reached the final of the Scottish Cup.
Nevertheless, he believes the season at Hearts will prove to be no less challenging or exciting in the second tier as he prepares to cross swords with the likes of Rangers and Hibs.
The former Barnet, Cowdenbeath and Birmingham man said: “I don’t think I am stepping down at all. I have come to a great place and I believe this will be a great division to play in.
“There are other big teams – Hibs, Falkirk and others. It will be a hard season for all the teams involved in the fight for first place, second place and for the play-off places.
“I had no doubts about coming here. I spoke to friends and family, but it was an easy decision to make.”
Gomis admits the lure of working with Craig Levein, now director of football at Hearts, was a particular draw as he weighed up his next career move.
He credits Levein with giving him his big break in Scottish football, having plucked him from Second Division obscurity at Cowdenbeath – where he worked under former Hibs striker and manager Mixu Paatelainen – to sign for Dundee United in 2007.
Coincidentally, Cowdenbeath will be among Gomis’ Championship rivals next term, bringing his career in Scotland full circle.
Gomis added: “Craig Levein is a huge part of why I am here today. I will always thank him for the big part he has played in my career. I hope to repay the favour on the pitch to him.
“He believed in me and have me a chance. He is an honest guy and he just wants you to give your best on the pitch, and that is what I always try to do. I always work hard for the team.
“Craig gave me the chance to go to Dundee United after Cowdenbeath – and it will be strange to go back [to Central Park] but it is something I am looking forward to.”
Gomis was speaking shortly after Hearts announced that they have already sold over 5,000 season tickets for the upcoming campaign.
Supporters are eagerly anticipating the new campaign, which promises to be one of the most historic in Scottish football history given the strength of the clubs in the second flight.
The player added: “Tynecastle is actually one of my favourite stadiums I’ve ever played at. All the games I have played here have been tough so I am looking forward to being in the home team.
“The ticket sales are fantastic and it shows this is one of the biggest clubs in Scotland and I want to play a big part for Hearts.”