Juwon Oshaniwa might well be getting some Hearts fans hot under the collar. But Robbie Neilson has asked them to give the full-back a break because he is one of a number still trying to get to grips with the cold Scottish weather.
Some fans might point out that the inclement conditions haven’t much to do with Oshaniwa’s liking for Cruyff turns on the edge of his own box. Neither are they a reason for the impulsiveness that led to him conceding a penalty shortly after kick-off in Wednesday night’s 3-2 win over Dundee United.
Neilson, however, has applauded the player’s willingness to take risks. He has urged fans to understand that players such as Oshaniwa and Juanma, who has now served a two-game suspension after being red-carded for a headbutt incident against St Johnstone, are still adapting to a new environment – and a new climate.
Neilson acknowledged that the player is struggling at present after making such a promising impression at the start of the season. Christmas and New Year can be a trying time for new arrivals from abroad cut adrift from their families. Then there are other challenges to overcome, such as hurricanes.
“He is just finding it a bit difficult to adapt at the moment, similar to Juanma,” said Neilson, on the morning after Oshaniwa’s performance against United attracted criticism from the stands. “He is coming in to a different culture, different pitches. He is not used to playing on a pitch like last night where it has been battering down with rain for three weeks.”
The left-back arrived at Tynecastle boasting international pedigree with Nigeria. But Neilson insists Oshaniwa, who was playing his club football in Israel before signing for Hearts in the summer, is not yet the real deal – otherwise he would not be at Hearts.
“It is just about being patient,” he said. “We are bringing these guys in to try and develop them. None of them are the finished article. There is scope to try and progress them. That is something we need to do with them all.
“We do not get players in that are finished articles. They need developed. They are all like that. Juanma, Blazej [Augustyn], Oshaniwa, they all they need to develop here as well.
“It is just cold to be honest with you,” he added. “They are all like that when they come in. Juanma is the same, [Miguel] Pallardo. They go out today and it is a blowing a gale and bucketing down. But they just need to get on with it. That is it. They will eventually get used to it. That is the way it is in Scotland. At this time of year it is always difficult.
“The Scottish guys are used to it,” he added. “Augustyn is used to it because he has played in Poland. But these guys need to adapt.”
On Neilson’s promotion to head coach, the former full-back promised to play entertaining football. His players have helped him fulfil this pledge to date, with Oshaniwa sometimes taking it to extremes. Against United, hearts were often in mouths as he sought to play the ball out of defence.
“I watched it on the video this morning, he did a Cruyff turn, played a one-two and got us on the attack,” shrugged Neilson. “We could all get a left-back who just gets the ball and shells it up the park. We don’t want that.
“We want guys who are going to try and pass the ball and do things that are exciting. With [Sam] Nicholson and [Billy] King we have forwards who do exciting things.
“We want defenders who can pass,” he added. “Yes, we’ll take risks. But I think the benefits we get from taking those risks outweigh shelling it up the park. We knew what Juwon was like when he came here, we knew he would excite people.”
Neilson, meanwhile, has urged Juanma to show what he can do with “with his feet” when he returns to the side after suspension. This could be as early as tomorrow’s trip to Kilmarnock.
Although the Spaniard has scored a creditable nine goals this season, he has also been booked nine times and picked up a red card on his last appearance, against St Johnstone. Neilson has backed him to prove a point to those who doubt whether he has the temperament to survive in the Scottish Premiership.
“Hopefully he does it with his feet by scoring goals, not by getting involved and doing silly things,” he said. “We spoke to him recently and showed him videos of some of the stuff he has been involved in recently. When he actually sat down and looked at it I think now he realises he needs to cut it out.
“And I’m pretty sure he will. He missed the Celtic game, which was a huge game. Wednesday night was an opportunity for him to score goals so I think he is desperate to get back in. Similar to Juwon, he is adapting to Scotland. It is going to take time.”