Neilson tells Hearts captain Ozturk be role model

Alim Ozturk: Popular choice. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Alim Ozturk: Popular choice. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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HEARTS head coach Robbie Neilson has told Alim Ozturk that he must become a “role model” after handing the 22-year-old defender the captaincy ahead of experienced campaigners such as Neil Alexander and last season’s vice-skipper Morgaro Gomis.

Showing admirable self-awareness, Ozturk immediately vowed to grow up as a player after acknowledging a habit of picking up silly bookings and hassling referees.

And Neilson, who insists his choice was a popular one among the squad, expects to see Ozturk thrive with the armband.

The Tynecastle boss said: “He is well respected in the dressing room and I respect him as a player. I think the captaincy will help him progress and he’ll be a good choice. It gives him the extra responsibility – it will benefit Alim as well as the team.

“He has a responsibility to be a role model for the team and for the fans and that will help him.

“Neil [Alexander] is part of the coaching staff, so that ruled him out a wee bit and I always feel it is good to have a centre-back or a defensive player as your captain – someone who can see the whole pitch.”

Hearts’ defensive options were further bolstered last night as the former Maritimo and Internacional defender, Igor Rossi Branco, arrived in the capital. The towering 26-year-old has penned a one-year deal with the Jambos and could make his debut in Sunday’s friendly against Everton.

Neilson said: “He’s predominantly a centre-back who can cover at left-back.

“He’s suited to the British game because he is quite physical, he’s good in the air and he’s physical.”

Brazilian Branco has, however, only played 60 games in four years with Maritimo, with almost half of them for the club’s ‘B’ squad, which plies its trade in the second tier.

Neilson explained: “He had a knee problem a couple of years ago. It’s a case of having to try and manage that, similar to Blazej [Augustyn].

“He’s a good player, he’s played in the Europa League and in the Portuguese top-flight. But there’s always going to be an issue if you get a player like that to come to Scotland.”

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