10 Of The Worst Heart of Midlothian Signings of the January Transfer Window Era
Updated: Jul 18
For worst Heart of Midlothian signings of the January transfer window era, you could also read most unfortunate or perhaps least successful. Much as critics of certain players like to diminish their contributions, only very few are genuinely bad. Mostly, if it does not work with a club, there have been reasons as to why the original transfer should, with hindsight, be regarded as a failure. Hearts have made excellent long and short term moves over the last 15 years or so (Bruno Aguiar, Steven Naismith, John Souttar & Lee Miller) and there have been some solid acquisitions, too (Ryan Stevenson being a great example). Along the way, though, there have been plenty more that did not work out as well as hoped. Here follows (in roughly chronological order) 10 of these signings, each with a unique story as to why their respective time with Hearts will not be regarded as the happiest of their careers.
Juho Makela Along with Jose Goncalves, Chris Hackett, Mirsad Beslija and Bruno Aguiar, Juho Makela was part of the “Famous Five” Graham Rix paraded in a now infamous picture from the January transfer window of 2006. On paper the signing looked to be one made to offer something different up top compared to the likes of Jankauskas & Bednar but the club never really looked to change their style of play to accommodate him and he certainly was not suited to the rough and tumble of the Scottish game. It would be 8 months before Makela would start a match for the club and although it did result in him scoring the perfect hat trick (one with his head and either foot) in a league cup tie against Alloa, the lottery style process of picking teams that was installed at the club during this time meant that he was never afforded the chance to kick on (along with some being made privy to a rumoured £5000 a goal bonus) It is perhaps telling that several permanent and interim managers never gave Makela an extended run in the team and he was shipped out on loan on two separate occasions before leaving permanently in 2009 to return to former club HJK Helsinki.
Mirsad Besliga’s injury-ravaged spell at Tynecastle embodied a chaotic time for Hearts in the mid-’00s dominated by a revolving door policy for managers and players. Having earned himself a reputation for being a pacey winger in the Belgian League for several years, the “Bosnian Bullet” should have been a smart bit of business from the club who splashed out a record transfer fee which still stands to this day but instead wound up being remembered for that £850,000 cross against Dundee United in a 4-0 win in 2006. Instead, the one-time Bosnian cap was unable to replicate his previous contributions during his two and a half years with Hearts. Beslija was not helped by his team’s descent into inconsistency and underachievement performance-wise. But in part, the absence of players such as himself—intended to be key members of the side—conspired to undermine Hearts here, too.
The above pic of Klimek became the only memorable moment from his brief Hearts career and turned him into a poster boy for the Romanov “Banter Years” An extremely modest spell in Lithuanian side Kaunas for two seasons seemed to convince the Tynecastle hierarchy to reward the immobile Polish striker with a 6-month loan contract but two fleeting appearances later and he was deemed surplus to requirements
Janos Balogh Janos Balogh was by far the most baffling signing of Csaba Lazlo’s tenure as Hearts manager. The Hungarian was brought in to strengthen Hearts’ goalkeeping options in August 2008 after Steve Banks had been banished. The initial 6-month loan was fine but then Lazlo saw it fit to make the deal permanent for £200,000 in January 2009 at a time when both Marian Kello and Jamie Macdonald were both on the books and the club were crying out for more options in attack. After a spell of sharing duties between the three, Kello would eventually become the one outstanding candidate for the number 1 jersey with Macdonald a capable deputy which left Balogh kicking his heels until he would eventually seek an early termination to his contract at the tail end of 2011.
Another for the category of not suited to the Scottish game, Paul McCallum had excelled in youth club football and was viewed as something of a project for the future when West Ham United signed him ahead of a few premiership rivals in 2011. Perhaps the then 20-year-old was a tad too young to be thrown almost headfirst into the Scottish top division a Hearts team staring at relegation and struggling for form, confidence & results. An immediate opportunity to impress the maroon faithful came in the form of a substitute appearance 24 hours after signing in the League Cup Semi Final against Inverness in 2014. A solid if unspectacular showing was followed up with a missed penalty in a losing shootout against a side that had been able to survive playing the whole of extra-time with 9 men.
Possessing good technique and a decent CV from Dutch football, Abiola Dauda was a player who, on paper, was well suited to filling the massive Osman Sow shaped hole when signed on loan deal days prior to a Scottish Cup showdown with Hibernian in 2016 The striker fleetingly showed signs of this in a few appearances and did score the decisive goal in a 1-0 win at Pittodrie so his appearance on this list may be a tad harsh but he for me, he failed to be the same talisman that Sow had become in the previous 18 months. It also became clear quickly he was not suited to the battling nature of Scottish football. Trying Dauda was worth a shot, but this was a move that went down as a miss.
Mohamed El Ouriachi Ouriachi’s debut against Celtic as a second half substitute was a tough watch. Injuries led to his early introduction and he looked extremely uncomfortable with tracking back and looked very much out of his depth against the champions. A more promising performance would follow against Motherwell at Fir Park with two assists but this would be the highpoint of his loan spell with the club. His signing seemed to only highlight the whiff of desperation and lack of proper due diligence and scouting being carried out during that 2017 transfer window.
Alexandros Tziolis takes his place on this list not because of a lack of quality, but the frustration at him conspiring to end a period with the club in 2016-17 that should have lasted longer than the few months it did. In a season of struggle for Hearts, on his best days Tziolis captured the imagination of supporters. His cameo in a 4-1 win over Rangers particularly hinted at what he might do should he join the team in the long run. Yet there were a few too many bad days to make a deal viable and fans were ultimately led to draw the conclusion that the playmaker deemed the club to be beneath his talent.
Signed during then-head coach Ian Cathro’s overhaul of the club’s squad in 2017, Former French U-21 cap Martin was viewed as an integral part of the style of play that Cathro wanted to implement at the club. A quarter back style of midfielder with a keen eye for a pass and reputation for being a dead ball specialist, his days were always going to be numbered once Cathro exited the club at the beginning of the 2017/18 season with Craig Levein looking to favour more mobile midfielders who can contribute in pressing the game and winning second balls. Perhaps If Cathro had hung around longer he might have proved his value to the squad. Given his failure to settle and play consistently in his football career (a situation that was admittedly never attributed to any behavioral issues at the club), hopes of Martin becoming a Hearts mainstay were probably always going to be wide of the mark.
This last entry is a great example of us fans maybe judging players ability without being privy to their application and performances in training. Many reports from others linked to the club seem to back what Ewan Murray had reported on social media upon the departure of Amankwaah in 2019 . What was very evident from an early stage was that we had only managed to acquire the services of the Ghanaian due to his issues with injuries over the past few seasons and this has severely dented his confidence. The at times unforgiving Tynecastle crowd was always going to be a hard venue to win over and it was no surprise to see Amankwaah moving on after a handful of starts during a 12 month stay.