Chilled-out Calem Nieuwenhof is adding the bite of compatriot Cammy Devlin to sink his teeth into life at full-blooded Hearts.
The 22-year-old is playing a huge role in his side’s sensational run having gone from laid-back learner to charged-up influence. Boss Steven Naismith reckons Nieuwenhof’s cool character may have initially held him back after plunging from sunny Sydney to fiery Scotland.
But the midfielder’s increasing bark is helping Hearts make even more noise as they have stormed to a 10-wins-in-11-games sequence. Nieuwenhof admits Naismith was right, but dog-like Aussie pal Devlin is the ideal man from which to learn and become a terrier. On the manager’s assessment, he said: “He’s not wrong, for sure. I’m a bit more of a laid back, reserved kind of guy. Coming over here to Scotland, football is so different. You can’t really be reserved on the pitch as I’ve learned.
“I think goals and assists will naturally come when you are getting into those positions and helping the team link up. I was able to get involved and link the play-up moving forward. All around I was happy with the performance.”
Kenneth Vargas was also on the scoresheet in Lanarkshire and, along with his Aussie crew, Niuewenhof admits the Costa Rican has helped him settle into Edinburgh. He said: “I’m still getting used to the cold! The city is awesome, I’ve really settled in and the boys have been great as well.
“We’ve got such a great bunch of guys in the dressing room. Everyone gets along as well which has made it that much easier. The Aussie boys, they’ve been easy to talk to and all that. And Kenny. We carpool together in the morning, so we spend a lot of time together. It’s been good.
“He’s been teaching me Spanish and I’ve been teaching him English. It’s getting there! It is still pretty basic. Kenny has really grown into Scottish football and going through a similar transition, so that’s made it all the better.”
With a last-eight tie against Morton booked, Hearts have genuine aspirations of Scottish Cup success as well as another third-placed finish to book a Euro return. Nieuwenhof has seen the videos and heard the stories of his club’s past successes and said: “The two main things the Jambos love, winning trophies and beating Hibs. I’m well accustomed to what the fans want here.
“I think we are in a great position at the moment on the ladder, we’re in third comfortably. We know if we keep winning and putting more distance between us and the rest of the pack it will go a long way in the last couple of months of the season. And the cup is obviously something we really want to push for and hopefully go on a deep run.”
Morton are next after stylishly seeing-off their Championship rivals Airdrie and Nieuwenhof said: “It has definitely given us confidence. We know every game is a real challenge whether it is a Premiership team or a Championship one.
“Any team can be dangerous, so it’s something we can go into and not take our foot off the pedal and go 100 per cent. I think we showed that on Sunday, getting the early goal then the second goal and third goal it really calmed the nerves and allowed us to settle into the game.”