Csaba Laszlo offers Walter Smith no sympathy over striking 'crisis'

CSABA Laszlo has little sympathy for the striking 'crisis' which Rangers are supposedly in the throes of at present, and unsurprisingly so. The Hearts manager, whose team visit Ibrox tomorrow, has had a problem up front more or less since he took up his post at Tynecastle a year and a half ago.

Kris Boyd, Kenny Miller and Nacho Novo are all unavailable for the champions this weekend because of injury, which clearly does leave Walter Smith short of strikers. But Laszlo not only has similar injury-related difficulties – Calum Elliot, Gary Glen and Jamie Mole, for example, have been out for weeks; he has also struggled to get his fit strikers playing at a decent level.

"I saw Rangers say they have big problems in the striker position," Laszlo said yesterday. "We have the advantage: we've had this problem for the last 18 months."

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The Hearts manager accepted that it would be particularly annoying for Smith to lose his forwards when they had been in such free-scoring form, but he hardly had to make the point that such form contrasted starkly with his own club, where midfielder Michael Stewart, with eight, is the only player to have scored more than two goals this season. "Boyd and Miller are the best strikers in the country in the last seven games," Laszlo said. "It must be painful for the manager to lose these players."

If Smith faces an acute problem at present, Laszlo's could only be described as chronic. Since Andrius Velicka left in February 2008, Hearts have not had a striker who has been a reliable and regular source of goals. Young players such as Gordon Smith and Scott Robinson have shown promise, but the manager has consistently argued that his squad needs experienced front men to take the burden off those teenagers and help them learn.

Having had his request to recruit Izale McLeod and Stephen MacLean on loan turned down, Laszlo has decided it is better to focus on the squad he has, and to regard those players on their way back from injury as if they were new recruits. "I don't concentrate about things that can't help me. I must put energy into the actual squad.

"Normally I bring you names, maybe seven or eight, but it doesn't help the club and it doesn't help the players if these names are not here. I must tell my players that together, what we have achieved, we can also achieve in the next game.

"For me, Andrew Driver will be a new player, and maybe Craig Thomson. Jose Goncalves will train with the team next week. The new player also is Calum Elliot. He will be back in full training next week. Driver needs two weeks."

Hearts have coped well despite such absentees, and have now gone six league matches without defeat. After initially being keen to enter the transfer market, Laszlo would rather get the window closed so he can focus fully on the squad he has rather than the one he would like.

"Most clubs have closed their intention to buy. In the first two weeks there was big movement.

"The transfer window is too long open. A lot of managers don't concentrate on their team. Two or three weeks is enough.

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"In the first year I lost so much energy in January trying to find someone to bring here – and nobody came. Now I think a little bit differently. This is experience. I concentrate more about the reality."

The reality is that Laszlo's team will find it tough at Ibrox, but opponents have found it increasingly difficult to break them down, and they will travel west in a confident frame of mind.

"To play against the big clubs it is always possible to make a surprise, and you must not go direct and say the most important thing is not to lose 5-0 or 6-0," Laszlo added. "We go there to win. I have no problem playing against the big clubs.

"Rangers have maybe 20 points more than us, but in the last six games maybe they have just two points more. This can be a very interesting game."

Ruben Palazuelos is suspended, but Lee Wallace may have recovered sufficiently from foot blisters to be included in defence. Further forward, the loss of David Templeton with a twisted ankle cuts down on Laszlo's options out wide. He could play Suso Santana and David Obua as orthodox wingers, but neither has been playing particularly well, and that could leave Stewart and Eggert Jonsson outnumbered in central midfield.

Laszlo had initially been hopeful that centre-half-cum-full-back Goncalves would be able to play at Ibrox after having specialist treatment in Germany for a thigh injury. He decided, however, that it would be too much of a risk, hence the statement that Goncalves would return to full training next week.