Meshino would set pulses racing at Hearts – Levein

Hearts manager Craig Levein remains “really positive” about the season ahead and is “hugely excited” about the prospect of signing Japanese forward Ryotaro Meshino.

Some fans called for Levein to quit after an opening-day Ladbrokes Premiership defeat at Aberdeen was followed by a goalless draw against Ross County.

The 54-year-old has since added Manchester United goalkeeper Joel Pereira and Republic of Ireland midfielder Glenn Whelan to his squad.

When asked whether he is feeling pressure ahead of Friday’s Betfred Cup tie at Motherwell, Levein said: “One of the advantages of being old is that I’ve seen this situation a number of times.

“We just haven’t hit our stride yet and it just takes one win to get us off and running. We had the same problem last season, we had a poor run through the Betfred and ended up banging a few goals in one game and that was it.

“I look at the quality of player we’ve got and the depth of our squad, and touch wood we don’t get too many injury problems, and I feel really positive about the season ahead.”

Meshino’s potential arrival has added to Levein’s optimism. Gamba Osaka announced they had agreed a deal to sell the 21-year-old to Manchester City last week and he is being lined up for a loan spell.

Levein said: “We are working on that, we will have an idea of the hearing date for a special talent visa shortly. I’m hugely excited about this one, he is an extremely talented young boy.

“Being able to bring someone into the UK on loan to us gives the player an idea of the environment and maybe Manchester City will take him after that or maybe he will stay for another year, I don’t know.

“But he is a hugely talented player. Our supporters get off their seats when somebody runs at players and takes them on and is entertaining.

“Normally we wouldn’t be able to afford a player of his significance. So I am hopeful, although I can’t say any more than that.”

Levein confirmed loan signing Pereira would start at Fir Park after Zdenek Zlamal experienced a dip in form.

“Bobby (Zlamal) has had a little bit of a tough time and I felt after the game at the weekend that it might be best to relieve a bit of the pressure on him, and also to bring in a younger goalkeeper,” Levein said.

“He will play on Friday and Colin (Doyle) will be number two. I have taken Bobby out completely. His decision-making is suffering a little bit just now and I think he as a person has suffered a little bit, so I have just taken him out the firing line for a little while.”

Levein also took some responsibility for the poor showing against County.

“I partly blame myself,” he said. “I had a look at my team and thought it was probably as strong a line-up as I could put out without John Souttar and Peter Haring.

“We worked on certain things all week to counter the way Ross County would play and we just didn’t do any of those things. And that’s the frustration for me.

“I kicked myself for not giving them a kick up the a*** before the game. Sometimes when you put your best team out there’s a feeling things are going to be all right. I should really have got after them before the game.

“But we can’t afford to play like that again this season, or next season or the season after.

“Saturday’s performance was a benchmark that we can’t afford to go anywhere, and I will be reminding the players what happens if we go into a game less than fully focused on our jobs and on the training we have done during the week.”

Hearts have a doubt over Steven Naismith (calf), while Whelan is not ready to start but Michael Smith has shaken off a virus.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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