Zdenek Zlamal is now contemplating the future after his contract at Tynecastle Park expired. The friendly Czech goalkeeper, 35, reflected on what seems an insanely quick three years in Edinburgh with typical candour.
“Sometimes I was good, sometimes obviously I was bad,” he said. A return to Czech Republic is most probable for the man nicknamed ‘Bobby’. He leaves after an unexpected farewell party at the national stadium.
Zlamal posed in a St Johnstone tracksuit with the Scottish Cup 12 days ago after they beat Hibs to lift to the famous trophy. He sat on their bench as an emergency loan signing during the semi-final win against St Mirren and was invited back out of courtesy.
Victory in the final completed a historic cup double for the Perth club in manager Callum Davidson’s debut season. It also gave Zlamal another warm memory to add to others from his time with Hearts.
“To be honest I was almost in holiday mood, then I got the phonecall asking if I wanted to help St Johnstone in the semi-final,” he explained to the Evening News. “With them winning the cup, it was a very nice way to finish a weird year. I didn’t expect it but it happened and it was brilliant.
Didn’t deserve medal
“I didn’t deserve a medal because I was only on the bench for one game in the cup, the semi-final. I just watched the final from the stand. It was very nice of St Johnstone to invite me to Hampden. They said I was part of the team and I really appreciated that.
“I celebrated with them and it was a really nice day. I don’t know if I could have got a medal or not, but even if I did I would just have passed it to one of the younger players or a member of the club.
“They deserved it more because they worked hard all season. To be honest, I didn’t really want a medal. I just wanted to have the feeling, be part of the team and grab the cup.”
He endured the disappointment of Scottish Cup final defeat with Hearts against Celtic in 2019, perhaps fuelling a desire to get his hands on the silverware one way or another.
With that box ticked, he is now preparing to leave Scotland with his wife and family. Zlamal has packed plenty into three years here since Craig Levein signed him from Czech club Fastav Zlin in summer 2018.
He began as Hearts’ first-choice goalkeeper and contributed seven clean sheets to an unbeaten run spanning his first 13 competitive outings. It included a 1-0 victory against Celtic in August that year.
Zlamal lost his place after a 5-0 loss to Livingston but would later regain it. Joel Pereira arrived on loan from Manchester United the following season and Zlamal was restricted to just 13 appearances before the Covid 19 pandemic forced football into shutdown.
He worked under four different managers – Levein, Austin MacPhee [interim], Daniel Stendel and Robbie Neilson at Tynecastle. Neilson loaned him to St Mirren and then St Johnstone this season since he wasn’t part of the first-team plans.
“I have been here three years so I feel a little bit emotional that this is the end,” said the keeper. “I spent some nice times in Scotland and also some very difficult times, but I have good memories. I met good people and made lots of friends.
“I enjoyed it when I was playing regularly and Hearts will always be in my heart. Sometimes I was good, sometimes obviously I was bad. I always gave my best on the pitch and I hope the supporters appreciate it.
“I had some good feedback from them. I think I had a good relationship with the fans, especially in the first season. The other seasons were more difficult but that’s life.”
Hearts’ return to the Premiership after last summer’s enforced relegation takes them one step closer to their targeted aim of regular European competition. “I hope Hearts will soon play in the Europa League again,” said Zlamal.
“You see much smaller teams in the Europa League and Hearts are not there, so I wish for Hearts to be back in Europe soon. It’s such a big club and I really wish them all the best.”
The Czech First League finished at the weekend so he must wait for an approach before taking a final decision on his future. “I am still waiting on an offer, there is nothing official from any club,” he explained.
“I don’t know if I will go back to Czech Republic or if I will stay here. It looks like I will go back to Czech but I don’t have any decision right now so we will see what the future brings.”
His wife wished to make Edinburgh the family’s permanent home after their first year here, although circumstances have now changed. “That was before Covid. During Covid it has been more difficult for me and my family,” admitted Zlamal.
“Our friends and family members can’t travel here and we can’t go home, so it is more complicated. We are leaving it open. If we stay here, that’s fine. If we go back to Czech Republic, it will probably be better for our family.
“I think my wife has changed her opinion a little bit because she really misses her family. The grandparents miss the kids as well. Everything changes with Covid. We will see what happens but we will always have very nice memories from Scotland.”