We look at the reasons as to why Hearts may have made the American international their new captain at the expense of Alim Ozturk
IT’S rather unusual for a new club captain to be appointed after the season has started, at least without a transfer or falling out having occurred. After all, the club captain doesn’t have to be the man leading the team out on the park, as St Johnstone have shown this year with Steven Anderson filling in for the injured Dave Mackay until the latter’s retirement last week, at which point the title of “club captain” was finally relinquished.
So why have Hearts decided to make the change? We speculate as to the reasons.
1) Perry Kitchen is guaranteed to play every week
Since returning from injury, the American has been a mainstay in the Hearts XI and that’s unlikely to change. He’s the screener in front of the back four and nobody does the job better at Tynecastle. While some clubs don’t mind having a club captain in the stands and a covering skipper on the pitch, it must be a weird dynamic when the top dog comes back to cover for injuries. As the saying goes: too many generals, not enough soldiers.
2) Alim Ozturk is third-choice centre back
Defensively, Hearts were far from convincing to begin the campaign. Partnerships of Ozturk with Igor Rossi and Ozturk with John Souttar were used but Hearts were still leaking goals. As any manager will tell you, defending is down to the entire team, but strong work from the centre back pairing can give it a solid foundation to build from. Ozturk wasn’t terrible. He just wasn’t as good as Souttar has been since the Rossi-Souttar partnership was born.
The former skipper is now cemented as third choice. That’s unlikely to change unless injury or a dramatic loss in form befalls one of the other two.
Souttar will get a longer leash than most. He’s a young centre back and will therefore make mistakes, but Hearts see unlimited potential in the defender who can pass, dribble and run like an advanced midfielder. When he does make an error, it would be more difficult for the club to fend off outside criticism when the club captain is directly behind him in the pecking order.
3) Ozturk is out of contract at the end of the season
Reports suggest Hearts are confident of signing Ozturk to a new deal, but if they are wide of the mark, it would make sense to plan for the future by going with a new skipper. It may also help Hearts’ case around the negotiating table if Ozturk is no longer club captain, especially if they believe someone else would be more suited to a role.
4) It gives Kitchen’s value a further boost
Seeing as Kitchen is an American international, and regarded as something of a coup when Hearts recruited him, it’s not a stretch to suggest Hearts could recruit a decent fee for his services in the future. Making him captain boosts his profile and value further, as well as sweetening the player’s mood toward the club when it comes time to renegotiating his current deal.
5) Kitchen is more vocal on the field
It’s the growing trend in football to have someone who remains stoic and leads by example. However, at the danger of sounding old-fashioned, isn’t it better to have a leader communicating with the team throughout the game? Ozturk is hardly mute, as he does a decent job of organising his defenders, though few spend as much time talking to the rest of the team as Kitchen, who’s often seen instructing his team-mates where they should be positioned.