Lawrence Shankland aims to capitalise on the chances Hearts manager Robbie Neilson tries to throw his way as the pair get set to resume a successful working relationship.
Neilson admitted he was “desperate” to sign his former Dundee United player when the striker became available following a season with Belgian club Beerschot which ended in relegation from the top flight.
Shankland scored 29 goals in 35 games under Neilson during United’s Championship title-winning campaign but he only hit nine in Micky Mellon’s more defence-minded side in the Premiership before scoring five in Belgium.
The Scotland international scored a double against Stoke at Tynecastle last week as Hearts warmed up for Saturday’s cinch Premiership opener at home to Ross County and Neilson is keen to supply the forward with the service he craves.
Neilson said: “He has already scored a couple of goals in his first pre-season game and it’s a case of us creating chances for him to score goals.
“I know very well, we know what he needs. He is a penalty-box striker. He won’t give you a lot outside it, but if you put the ball in the box he will score goals and it’s up to us to make sure we get him in there.”
After playing out of position for most of his time in Belgium, Shankland is happy to have a manager who is keen to play to his strengths.
“Of course it helps when you know a coaching staff and had success together before,” he said.
“We did well at Dundee United. Obviously the manager moved on but he wished me the best when I went over to Belgium and I kept in contact, with Jig (Lee McCulloch) especially. It was nice to be reunited with them.
“They know what they are getting from me, I know what I am getting from them.
“He knows what my strengths are, what I am good at, what I’m not so good at. It always helps when a manager knows what to do to suit you.
“It is music to my ears if it goes well and I put the chances away.”
Despite the disappointment of going down, Shankland feels his spell abroad will help him.
“I’m still glad I did that but it’s nice to be home and nice to be back at a big club,” he said.
“In a weird way there were good parts to it.
“Overall it was a disappointing season for the team. I just had to take positives from it for myself and try and learn as much as I could while I was there, and try and improve myself coming back here.
“Hopefully over the season there will be things that come up that I can look back and say, ‘I probably learned that over in Belgium’.
“Overall it was a challenging season but I am still glad I did it.”
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