Ranking all 45 strikers Hearts have signed this century - Part 1
We have been subjected to quite the revolving door of centre-forwards since 2000 – and it’s fair to say their success rate could have been better.
In total, we have brought in 45 out-and-out strikers in that time who in total have averaged a goal every 3.9 games. Some of them turned out to be good signings, some were great and some – well, lots – did not work out as planned.
Starting with said disappointments I've ranked each of them, and I'm pretty sure it’ll make us appreciate Liam Boyce more than ever.
The players rankings are naturally just an opinion piece based on my observations of their talent along with the value they brought to the club and if they met or exceeded fans expectations.
45. David Vanecek (7 appearances & 0 goals)
It is often said that the best strikers have to have a certain level of arrogance and self confidence that sets them apart from others.. The problem with David Vanecek was that he seemed incapable of meeting the high expectations that he and the club had set in the months leading up to his arrival in January 2019.
It was clear that he had not arrived to the club in peak condition which does beg the question why we attempted to play him from the start twice in the matter of days which resulted in his 35th minute removal from field during a 2-1 home loss to Dundee.
"Then after this match a lot of the fans hated the manager". This was the take from the big Czech striker after being released during that summer and his legacy since his departure would be that of the poster child for recruitment failings during the past few seasons.
44. Dylan Bikey (2 appearances & 0 goals)
Our 1st attempt to beat our city rivals to the signature of a striker in 2017 and fair to say the least successfull.
Bikey arrived with little fan fare at a time when the supporters were fatigued with the all the comings and goings of that January window and his capture would have represented little risk to our balance sheets, but after two sub appearances in defeats to Ross County & Partick Thistle, he would be let go and is now back playing for Stirling Albion in League 2.
43. Arkadiusz Klimek (2 appearances & 0 goals)
If he hadn't been involved in a press day involving Horses then I doubt many of us would be able to pick the burly Pole out of a line-up.
Another who arrived on the conveyor belt of talent from Kaunas in 2007, He offered little and did not look capable of putting any pressure on the strikers already on the clubs books.
42. Cole Stockton (15 appearances & 0 goals)
He came, he saw, he did blackface at the xmas party and then he left. The Hearts career for Stockton started with a near open goal miss in a friendly in Livingston and went down-hill from there. Not the most mobile of forwards and did little to indicate that he could handle the step up in quality after his transfer from Tranmere. Also played his part in the banter filled Betfred Cup exit by passing up a glorious late chance against Dunfermline.
41. Paul McCallum (7 appearances & 0 goals)
We’re in the big leagues now. By that, I mean we’re on to players that we captured or loaned from the English Premiership. McCallum was signed the day before our League Cup Semi Final against Inverness in 2014.
After a solid if unspectacular sub appearance from McCallum, the match was tightly poised at 2 goals apiece with a penalty shoot-out to determine the winners who would go on to face Aberdeen at Parkhead. In a move that still vexes me to this day, we seemed to allow the young lad to take our 1st penalty which seemed strange given he had spent one training session with the team prior to the game.
Naturally, his effort was saved by Ryan Esson and his time at the club saw very sporadic appearances after this with little to no impact.
40. Mike Tullberg (7 appearances & 0 goals)
If I ever attend pub quizzes and the question around when You Tube was created is raised, I am always very confident that the answer is pre 2008 and the reason for this is due to Mike Tullberg being one of the 1st examples of a player signed with big expectations purely based on their You Tube show reel (a late overhead kick winner for a previous club).
Tullberg spent one season at Tynecastle during an injury plagued career which resulted in him retiring shortly after leaving the club in 2009.
39. Ricardas Beniusis (9 appearances & 0 goals)
Have to admit to having some sympathy for this player with his signing coming against the backdrop of losing Craig Gordon, letting Roman Bednar head down south and the club being run by caretaker bosses who had to succumb to the erratic behaviour of our owner.
His debut against Hibs was certainly not impressive and there were cheers when he was replaced by Michal Pospisil during this match, but he wrongly became a scapegoat for our general failings during this period which resulted in some fans ironically willing him to grab a goal during a later cameo role at Pittodrie.
Interesting fact, Gary Mackay once told me that his falling out with Romanov started when he questioned the signing of Beniusis during a trip to Lithuania in the summer of 2007.
38. David Witteveen (11 appearances & 1 goal)
Another beneficiary of our glorious leader having a very small group of trusted agents that he wished to deal with, Witteveen was snapped up from the Austrian lower leagues in the summer of 2009 and he would stumble and struggle his way through a handful of starts before having a fruitful loan spell with Morton.
It can be difficult to be too critical of these players as they are only guilty of accepting decent contracts at a club that they had no right being at in the 1st place. Again blame really needs to lie to the decision makers at the time and it became more and more apparent as the season wore on that Witteveen was just a mere pawn in the break up between Csaba Lazlo and Vladimir Romanov during this time.
37. Gordon Durie (18 appearances & 3 goals)
The signing of a once prolific Durie on a rumoured big wage for the club was ultimately the actions of a frustrated Jim Jefferies throwing one last dice before leaving the club a few weeks later.
It all started off positively enough with the signing of Durie and the emergence of Andy Kirk who had signed a few months previously resulting in two wins and 7 goals against Motherwell & Dundee United with Kirk and Durie sharing 5 of those strikes.
The 6-2 reverse at Easter Road signalled the beginning of the end for Jefferies and Durie would become more of a bit part player for the remainder of the season under Craig Levein who had been given the directive of cutting costs and moving some of the high earners at the club off the books.
36. Juho Makela (23 appearances & 5 goals)
Makela represented a significant outlay from the club when he joined for £500,000 in 2006. Sadly, he failed to ever really pay it back with his performances and it has been rumoured in recent years that the Finn had a goal bonus clause of £5,000 per goal which means he gained a £15,000 goal bonus for his exploits against Alloa,
An argument may be made that he was never given an extended run during his 3 years at the club but given how many managers and coaches came and gone during this spell, it is damning that the one common theme between them all was that Makela could not be trusted.
Will always have that goal against Barcelona though.
35. Ramon Pereira (22 appearances & 2 goals)
My pain with this inclusion is more personal than the others. I chose to sponsor the divine mullet/Mad max during the 04/05 season and was invited along to a training session after missing the sponsors dinner. To my horror I watched the Spaniard turn up late, stink up training and be the butt of the majority of the jokes amongst the squad.
Like many on this list, he showed some promising signs during his early showings, winning a penalty at Dens followed by a goal and an assist against Kilmarnock the following week.
His form and behaviour would quickly become more and more erratic and there were always reports of issues with team-mates behind the scenes.
Once Robbo got the managers gig, Pereira become even more of a fringe squad member and he would join Livingston and knock us out of the League Cup the following season.
34. Conor Sammon (27 appearances & 2 goals)
Gordon Durie aside, it would be fair to say that the previous inclusions in this list would have been players who most fans would have had a decent knowledge of prior to pulling on a maroon jersey.
It was fairly common knowledge that Conor Sammon had only enjoyed one productive season with Alexei Eremenko playing a major supporting role prior to trying his luck down south.
Reports that we had to offer a 3 year deal to beat Aberdeen to his signature who offered more money but on a shorter deal would only fuel the frustration from the stands which reached boiling point when we were hit with an unexpected early exit in Europe. The ironic cheers when Sammon was announced as MOTM was always going to be hard to come back from and to be fair to Sammon he never shirked discussing fan expectation and never hid during games either.
Things went from bad to worse when Ian Cathro took over as head coach with Sammon given a 45 cameo on right midfield and he would be farmed out on loan for the remainder of his contract.
33. Michael Ngoo (17 appearances & 5 goals)
One of the players I found it hard where to place on the list. A capable forward with an awkward playing style which resulted in goals for team mates and also a handful for himself.
When looking back though it is common for us fans to judge players on their big game performances and Ngoo was guilty of failing to turn in Derbies that season along with the League Cup final performance.
32. Tony Watt (17 appearances & 1 goal)
A very exciting capture (although not completed in time to influence our European ties that season).
Although he did not score on his debut for the club against former paymasters Celtic, Watt had shown lots of promise and when he scored shortly after to earn us a win at Firhill, things looked rosy.
But the bloom fell off this rose in a swift and frustrating fashion. Watt (either through frustration or under instruction) was dropping deeper in games and by December had been informed by the new boss Ian Cathro that he would not be heavily involved. The loan spell was cut short and now Watt has found a home and is flourishing for Motherwell.
31. Mark Burchill (17 appearances & 4 goals)
A player with a decent record for scoring goals playing for a manager who certainly knew what it took to score goals for the club - what could go wrong?
It never seemed to click for Mark Burchill. He scored a couple of late goals against Motherwell & Rangers but on both occasions his goals were forgotten due to to the events which came after his strikes.
Managed to grab a goal in a rare Parkhead win for the club but he only managed 7 starts during his loan spell and it was no surprise to see him not extending his loan or signing permanently that summer.