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Rudi Skacel back at Hearts, but Jim Jefferies fails to get excited

Published Date: 17 September 2010
RUDI Skacel's return to Hearts was hailed as a major boost by supporters of the Tynecastle club yesterday - but was greeted far less enthusiastically by Jim Jefferies.

• Rudi Skacel is back on the books at Tynecastle

The Hearts manager failed to respond positively when asked if he was pleased with the signing of the Czech international, who has agreed a one-year deal with the option of a further year's extension. Jefferies regarded recruiting a left-back to replace the injured Lee Wallace as his priority, but Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov has not approved the signing of trialist Tony Capaldi, appearing to prefer to bring back Skacel, who was an instant success when he first joined Hearts in 2005.

"He's an experienced player and he has been added to the squad," Jefferies said yesterday when asked his reaction to the signing of Skacel, who scored in his first seven league games for Hearts. "So we will have competition for places."

Asked if he was happy about the signing, the manager responded noncommittally. "As I say, you are always looking to improve your squad and add quality players to it," he continued. "That's what we have done.

"He was quite popular with the fans, albeit that was four years ago. He has moved on since then. He'll have more experience about him, so if he produces the same form he did that time I am sure the fans will take to him. He's a left-sided player, and we have a few players who can play in that position so there will be good competition for places."

Jefferies was aware of the talks between Skacel, Romanov and Hearts director Sergejus Fedotovas, which were conducted over the course of a fortnight before yesterday's successful conclusion. Speaking a week earlier when the talks were in the balance, the manager implied there was no need for another winger-cum-wide-midfielder like Skacel. "What do you do with Andrew Driver, with Arvydas Novikovas, with David Templeton?" he asked.

Older and more experienced than the vast majority of his new team-mates, Skacel may not be an obvious fit with Jefferies' team-building plans. But, having turned down a new contract with Greek club Larissa, he is intent on rekindling his career in Edinburgh, and yesterday suggested it had been a mistake for him to leave in the summer of 2006 when Southampton paid £1.6million for him.

"I am very glad to be back at Hearts again," Skacel said. "It is a club that made me successful four years ago. I feel part of the club because of the supporters. They gave me incredible backing when I was here before and now I want to show them that we can have success again.

"I was very successful at Hearts, but I was young and at the time I trusted various people telling me it was the right time for me to go. But I was wrong. Now I want to put the past behind me, and I am very happy that the club gave me another chance to show my best and restore my career."

Having not played since the end of last season, Skacel is not match fit and is unlikely to be in Jefferies' squad for tomorrow's noon kick-off in Inverness. He could come into consideration, however, for the Co-operative Insurance Cup match at Falkirk on Tuesday, though Jefferies warned that he would have to fight for his place.

"It doesn't matter if it is Rudi Skacel or any player - whoever comes here has to come in and fight for their place. Kevin Kyle had to compete for a place. I brought in Stephen Elliot and he needs to fight for a place. Nothing changes. There is no guarantee of anyone playing."

Skacel played left-back at times for Southampton, and the injury to Wallace means Jefferies may have to think about fielding his new recruit there. Both manager and player, however, are agreed that he is more effective further up the park.

"I don't think it's his favourite position," Jefferies said. "I asked him about that, and I wanted a straight answer - and he gave me one. He doesn't like it.

"Ruben (Palazuelos] has filled in for us there and he doesn't mind doing that. Some people are put there and they don't like it. Rudi has said to me it is not his favourite position, but he can play there. It may depend on the game or the situation, maybe at home, if we ever needed him. But I think everybody knows him for his attacking qualities rather than his defensive ones.

"When he is in training we'll see what fitness levels he has got and we'll see the best place to deploy him. The good thing about him is he can play in two or three positions. He's got the flexibility to do that.

"So it might be behind the strikers if we want to play that way. He might play wide left or there is a possibility in certain games he could play left-back.

"We have Wallace out and if anything happens to Ruben I might be forced to play him there. I'm not saying we can't get by with him there, it's just that he personally doesn't think it is his best position and you can see why. He is more of an attacking-type player."

Skacel scored 17 goals in all during his first spell with Hearts, including one in the Scottish Cup final with Gretna. After moving to Southampton he was on loan at Hertha Berlin then moved on to Slavia Prague before going to Larissa earlier this year.

Taken from the Scotsman

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