CRAIG LEVEIN claims he knew Kyle Lafferty would end up at Rangers because he only ever ran around for Hearts when they were playing Celtic.
Northern Ireland internationalist Lafferty will line up against the Edinburgh outfit this afternoon for the first time since his £450,000 return to Ibrox at the end of the transfer window.
It is an intriguing prospect, not least because of the comments from his former strike partner Steven Naismith that he had been just a ‘bit-part’ player for the league leaders this season anyway.
But, while Hearts manager Levein notes the upturn in Lafferty’s energy levels since re-joining the Light Blues, with whom he made over 100 appearances for from 2008 to 2012, he is also quick to acknowledge his previous contributions.
“Kyle scored 19 goals for us last season, so we know just how much of a potent threat he is,” he said.
“And, of course, we also know he does score goals in big matches, because he used to do that regularly.
“I thought Kyle’s move would happen eventually. It was just about getting the right deal, and that’s where we got to.
“To be fair, he had already made it clear that he wanted to go back to Rangers, and he’s started well there. He’s scored a few goals already.
“When I watch him, he runs about like mad, you know? He only ever did that for us against Celtic.
“So we’re well aware of what Kyle is capable of, but I’m an admirer of Alfredo Morelos as well, he’s a really good striker who has been one of Rangers’ top players since he came in last year.
“Our way of dealing with the threat will be to put our faith in our two young centre-backs, who are improving week-on-week. I think they are capable of dealing with just about everything that is thrown at them.”
If John Souttar is a player well known to Scottish fans. Jimmy Dunne, the 20-year-old Irishman on loan from Burnley, is one they are increasingly coming to admire.
“His temperament is good, though, he wants to win every week and he’s a really good football player. Technically, he’s a gifted boy.
“Jimmy is uncomplicated, and he has settled in really quickly alongside John,” said the Haerts gaffer.
“But, as I say, it’s been quite seamless, especially when I consider the moment that Christophe Berra went down in the Celtic game with what looked like a serious injury.
“They are young players and if Jimmy hadn’t been on loan at Barrow and Accrington Stanley and played regular men’s football, then I would have been much more reluctant to do the deal to bring him here.
“All in all he’s just a good, honest, hungry professional who wants to do well.”
Levein is himself in the midst of a settling-in process, following his recent health scare.
Yet, as much as the 53-year-old is prepared to let his team coaches do much of the day to day work, he insists fans are unlikely to notice much difference in terms of his animation levels on the touchline.
“That’s impossible to shut down. It really is,” he said.
“I went in the stand during the Livingston game and it wasn’t great, so I will be in the dug-out from now on.
“And the difference between being up the stairs and down on the touchline is the connection with everything around you.
“Whether it is the dug-out, fourth official, linesman, players close to you, referee close to you, challenges, noises – once you are on the touchline it is really difficult not to feel all that stuff.
“No matter how much I think I need to watch what I’m doing, it just doesn’t work that way.”
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