Garang Kuol: Hearts outline plans for Newcastle loanee as admission made on development
The 18-year-old was signed by Newcastle United from Central Coast Mariners and immediately farmed out on loan. The Jambos beat off competition from a clutch of clubs in England’s Championship for the pacey forward, who back in November became the youngster player to represent the Socceroos at the World Cup. His cameos against France and Argentina caught the eye, especially against the latter, with a smart save from Emi Martinez in stoppage time denying Australia an equaliser in their last-16 tie.
Three months into his loan spell at Tynecastle and Kuol is still waiting for his first goal for Hearts. He has only started one match, a 3-0 defeat by Rangers in which he was replaced at half time, with seven other substitute appearances. The Australian starlet has found it tough but back in his homeland last week on international duty, he netted his first goal in green and gold in a 3-1 victory over Ecuador. He returns to training on Friday morning alongside fellow Aussies Kyle Rowles, Nathaniel Atkinson and Cammy Devlin and is in contention for Saturday’s match against Kilmarnock.
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson is aware that it has not all been plain sailing for Kuol since arriving at the club. "I'm delighted for him [scoring his first goal for Australia],” said Neilson. “He's probably not got as much game-time as he'd like. But we knew bringing him here, we spoke with Newcastle and a big development one for him coming here. I would like to give him more game-time and I'm sure it willcome.
“It’s European football, getting used to that and being away from home. He was an 18-year-old kid who has come away from Australia, plonked down in the UK and straight up to Edinburgh. He has taken time to develop. But I can definitely see him coming on with the defensive aspects of his game. I think we all knew that would be the area he’d need to develop. He’s a confident guy anyway, whether he scores or scores three goals he’ll still be the same, he wants the ball and wants to do well.”
Kuol and the rest of Hearts’ Australian contingent were handed a warning from the national team’s manager Graham Arnold that they will all need to be playing regular first-team football if they are to be considered for competitive matches going forward. At present, only centre-half Rowles starts most weeks for the Jambos. Neilson was asked what the rest need to do and the answer was straightforward. “Train well, play well,” he said. “We've got a good group here, a 26-man squad. You've got to get in the team, play well and stay in it. That's what they need to do.”
Another player back from international duty is Lawrence Shankland, fresh from coming on a late sub in Scotland’s 2-0 win over Spain and nearly scoring. “The big thing for me was for him to get game-time, that in a pressure situation that Steve [Clarke, Scotland manager] trusted him” added Neilson. “He went on and did very well, he got the opportunity, but not only that, he pressed well, defended well. He'll definitely be in Steve's thoughts for the summer.”