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Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Dietmar Drabek
[M Muhlbauer 62]
15 of 019 Mirsad Beslija 83 F A

Makela desperate to make his mark


JUHO MAKELA arrived at Hearts with a reputation founded on unbridled potency, as 33 goals in 41 games for former club HJK Helsinki illustrated.

It is somewhat perplexing, then, that after arriving in Edinburgh in January, the £500,000 striker appeared for just 87 minutes in total and bulged the net just once through to the season's climax in May.

Over his previous two years in the Finnish Veikkausliiga, the prolific Makela had evolved into one of the most effective forwards in the country and attained international recognition as a reward.

So the Hearts support were entitled to brim with enthusiasm when then head coach Graham Rix paraded Makela as one of eight transfer deadline-day signings secured by majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov.

The Finn's failure to reinforce his qualities in Scotland has seen him cast on to the very periphery of the first-team squad in the intervening period, though.

A draining of confidence was never an option for the player, who arrived here in the Austrian mountains at the start of the week with application uppermost in his mind.

With Valdas Ivanauskas now in command of first-team affairs, Makela retains hope that he will be given more scope to display his goalscoring aptitude.

He was permitted a 45-minute second-half stint against LASK Linz on Wednesday and looked industrious if somewhat cumbersome at times. The crisp touch and sharpness have still to be honed, but Makela's predictions for the season ahead read as a warning signal to the likes of Edgaras Jankauskas and Roman Bednar.

"I have to try and impress Valdas and then it's up to him how much I will play this season," said the Finn in completely unbroken English. "These pre-season matches and the training sessions are where I can demonstrate my ability and I'm confident about being able to do that now. I'm a striker and my main role is to score goals. That is what I'm paid to do and that's what I intend to do.

"Put it this way, I'm expecting more than one."

Perhaps it's time for Ivanauskas to shelf those plans for recruiting a new attacking face, although for now the jury must remain firmly out with no indication on when they will deliver their verdict on Makela.

As far as goals go, he has managed one in three substitute appearances for Hearts. That arrived in last season's 4-0 victory over Dunfermline at Tynecastle.

One in three games is a reasonable statistic for any striker to maintain, but Makela's record in Helsinki details a familiarity with bigger numbers.

"I was disappointed at the number of games I played last season. As a professional you want to play and playing time is extremely important. But I wasn't in the best condition last season and now I am much better physically.

"My fitness is improving all the time and I feel in better shape than ever. I am working hard here and I want to put that to good use."

The Hearts squad spent yesterday morning enjoying a leisurely group cycle around their base in the picturesque ski resort of Windischgarsten although, as temperatures crept into the 30s, the sight of mountain bikes being pushed uphill became all too common.

For Makela, the only impression he is trying to peddle is one of a committed and talented footballer. Ivanauskas, in bringing the player to Austria with the first-team squad, would seem inclined to agree that there is underlying potential in the striker.

"For my first game, the 45 minutes against Linz was enough but it will not be a secret that I want to play more during the coming games," enthused Makela.

"It was a good workout for us all against Linz, I thought a draw was the right result in the end because both teams had an equal amount of chances. I was pleased at getting 45 minutes.

"I feel good in training and in the games, so now I'm looking forward to the game against Spartak Trnava on Saturday."

That game promises to be the most stringent of all on this trip as the Slovakian side also intensify their preparations for a campaign in the UEFA Cup. What an ideal time, then, for a born goalscorer like Makela to start bulging some nets in maroon.

Taken from the Scotsman

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