Lost soul David has a new goal at Hearts after Morton loan

IF ever a player had a fight on his hands, it's David Witteveen. The Hearts striker openly admits being out of his depth at SPL level and has only found his feet in Scotland since joining First Division Morton on loan. Nonetheless, that concession should not be interpreted as the waving of a white flag on his Tynecastle career.

Witteveen's motivation between now and the season's end is to continue revamping himself at Cappielow Park before then attempting a resurrection back at his parent club next year. He does not take the assignment lightly, but nor will he cower and shirk away from it.

His two-year Hearts contract expires in June 2011, giving him one more season to establish himself on Scotland's highest footballing plain. In acknowledging his shortcomings and moving to a lower league, his humility has been rewarded with the opportunity of regular game time, a prospect he was hitherto denied.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The 24-year-old started only five matches for Hearts whilst becoming a conspicuous pawn in an internal political joust between the club's previous manager Csaba Laszlo and majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov.

His signing was conducted last summer on Romanov's suggestion. Laszlo, his own striker recommendations vetoed by the Russian, felt he had little option but to accept Witteveen. He arrived having spent last season with Wolfsberg Athletic Club St Andra in Austria's Landesliga (a regional league). The gap in class was instantly detectable, something the player himself recognised. When Jim Jefferies replaced Laszlo in late January, it was time to act.

"I went to Jim to ask why I wasn't playing and why I didn't get my chance," said Witteveen. "He said he didn't know me and had never seen me play. For this reason he said it would be better for me to go on loan for one and a half months and get games. That way I could show him how I'm doing in matches.

"I think it was a good decision because now I am playing. Jim was at my first game for Morton against Airdrie United, Gary Locke was there last week against Inverness and Jim said he was coming through last night to Cappielow to see me (against Scottish Cup finalists Ross County]. They have not just sent me away and don't care. They are looking at me and watching me and this gives me a feeling that they care about me."

The match at Cappielow finished 1-1 with Witteveen winning the penalty after six minutes which Carlo Monti converted. Imbuing Witteveen with self-confidence may well be pivotal to producing a useful player out of someone who at times resembled a lost soul.

"I knew I had a lot to learn when I arrived at Hearts," he continued. "The tempo and quality was higher and I knew I was not at that standard in the beginning. I had to learn to think faster and to be strong with my body. I knew people expected goals from me. It is normal that supporters expect goals from a new striker.

"The change was very big from Austria. The first thing is the quality is higher. Everything is faster here and you have no time to take the ball and take a look because everything is so quick.

"The second thing is that the atmosphere at Hearts is unbelievable. I played in Austria in front of 1000 and 2000 supporters, then I was in front of 16,000 or 18,000 in Edinburgh. At first I was very nervous playing for Hearts with these supporters. You want to do what you can and sometimes you put yourself under pressure because you want to show something. I think it became a problem for me because I wanted to show too much.

"Now I have settled down here and I enjoy playing when the stadium is full. I think I am now at a level where I can score goals for Hearts.

"The Morton gaffer (James Grady] said he knew I was a good player. He was a striker himself and he said it is most important to enjoy the game when you play. He told me to go out and play for fun and, when I get the chance to score, to trust myself."

A hat-trick against Queen of the South in his third Morton appearance displayed the predatory instincts Witteveen believes can re-establish him with Hearts next season. The gaffer at Morton is very happy with me and this gives me confidence. Every football player wants to play games but at Hearts I didn't play. Of course I want to play for Hearts and it would be better if I was involved there, but this is a chance to show Jim Jefferies that I can play good football and score goals.

"Anything can happen in the summer. I will have a private talk with Jim because I have one year left on my contract. I hope I can come back to Hearts and play there. That is definitely my first choice.

"I believe I have the quality to play in the SPL with Hearts. For a striker, it is always important that the gaffer trusts you, wants you and has confidence in you. I think when I get the confidence from Jim Jefferies I can score goals. I feel I am getting better every day."

Cappielow may be amongst Scotland's more modest venues, but it might just be the place where David Witteveen turns his career around and wins the fight of his life.