Obua now upfront in approach for Hearts

DEPLOYING David Obua as an emergency striker was a calculated experiment by Jim Jefferies which is gradually paying dividends for Hearts.

The Ugandan, often berated for a lack of application on his regular midfield beat, has proved to be a useful and industrious attacker for two principal reasons.

Not only does his 6ft-plus frame present a physical problem for opponents but, combined with his mobility, it makes him an all-round bustling centre-forward.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Not since Roman Bednar exploded on to the Scottish football scene in autumn 2005 has such a commodity been seen at Tynecastle.

Obua is the first to admit he still has much to learn about his new striking role.

But, with each passing week, his partnership with Gary Glen becomes more natural as Jefferies seeks to foster an understanding between the two.

Their pairing is an unlikely one since Obua fluctuated between starting berth and substitutes' bench under Hearts' previous manager Csaba Laszlo, while Glen's inconsistency was a frequent source of frustration to the Hungarian.

Jefferies' persistence looks to be paying off however, and Obua's attacking instincts are complemented by the fact that he is something of a rarity in the SPL.

Few clubs can boast a player who possesses both physical presence and sleight of foot. Indeed, major leagues around Europe are largely bereft of such individuals. Those who can lay claim to both attributes are in high demand and outwith the price range of all but the most opulent.

The deal brokered by Barcelona to lure Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Catalonia from Inter Milan last summer totalled around 60million, while Fernando Torres cost Liverpool 26.5m from Atletico Madrid in 2007.

Now it should not be assumed for one moment that Obua is anywhere near the class of an Ibrahimovic or a Torres but their transfers illustrate the lengths some football clubs will go to to acquire a forward who is tall, imposing and quick.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The one frustration for Obua to date is that he has scored only once from his new striking berth, against Hamilton at Tynecastle in February.

Speaking to the Evening News, he said he would like to add more goals to his repertoire but is working on developing a bustling style of attacking play to complement the more instinctive Glen.

"Yes it's disappointing not scoring but other guys are scoring so that is good for the team," explained the 25-year-old.

"The new role is all right, I'm just working hard and try to do things to benefit the team.

"That's the most important thing. You have to adapt to the Scottish way of playing. That's how it is and I am adapting properly.

"It's going okay. With Gaz, he is always running around you. We have a lot to learn together but I think we've done well.

"The goals haven't come that much yet but, if we stay together, I think we can do well.

"I just have to keep going and know where I'm playing. I'm okay as long as I'm on the field and I can help the team. I'll do anything to help the team.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"The manager has told us you just have to go out there and work 110 per cent.

"That's the most important thing he has said. We have to go out and work harder and harder." Saturday's meeting with St Mirren in Paisley was a typically physical SPL encounter in which Obua more than held his own. The hosts employed Billy Mehmet and Michael Higdon in attack, neither of whom could be termed a shrinking violet, but Jefferies pinpointed the advantage Obua holds over the commonplace "big man" up front.

"He's more of a threat. He's got mobility and I think he's more involved in the game up there," said the Hearts manager.

"Whether he was stuck out wide before and asked to do a certain job, things that maybe he wasn't comfortable with, I don't know. I just see him causing problems. When you put balls up there you have to challenge.

"Higdon, no disrespect to him because he's not the most mobile, wins a lot of balls in the air.

"Obua has that ability to win the ball in the air but he's got great movement. He's more mobile, he has a great touch and he plays passes. What we need to do is get him on the end of things. He had a great chance on Saturday from a corner, he got above everybody but headed the ball downwards instead of on target. We need to add a couple of goals to his game and then he'll get a lift."

If anything, Obua might already be the most revitalised player at Tynecastle following Jefferies' arrival.

"If a new coach comes in, he brings his own philosophy," said the player. "It's usually always like that. But the boys are fighting. When a new coach comes in you have to fight for places and show you can work hard for the team. That's what's happening. He's got us fighting hard and trying to win the games. You have to play with your heart, you have to play with determination each and every day. Everyone is putting in the effort and pulling together no matter what."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This Saturday brings the first defining moment for Hearts under Jefferies as their top-six fate will be decided at home to Kilmarnock. A point would be enough to clinch the Tynecastle side's place in the top half but Obua is targeting a win.

"We aren't confident of winning," said Obua cautiously. "It's another big game at home and you never know what can happen. We aren't going to disrespect Kilmarnock and say we're going to beat them before we play. We have to train properly this week and then win the game.

"Let's just take it game to game. Let's play Saturday and see what happens. We just have to take it slowly. Kilmarnock are a good team and Jim is their former manager so they will come and fight hard. But we are at home and the fans will back us to win."

Slowly but surely, the Tynecastle natives have offered their backing to Obua again in recent weeks. Converting the jeers into cheers has hung largely on that change of position.