The Scottish football season is finally over and although it was another clean sweep for…
Hearts have signed a lot of players. At the time of writing the Tynecastle club have brought no less than 13 new faces to Edinburgh as Craig Levein continues to test the very definition of a “scattergun approach” to the summer transfer window.
However, while a number of the new players joining the capital side may not last long or feature at all in the coming season there is one player that has looked like a very smart signing. A diamond in the rough. His name is Olly Lee and he’ll probably be one of Hearts’ most important players this season.
The 27-year-old central midfielder moved to Hearts this summer after three years playing for Luton Town in League Two. And although the English fourth tier doesn’t immediately strike fear into the hearts of Levein’s enemies, Lee has already shown what he can do.
In the 2-1 win over Cove Rangers – a match that has since been reported for Hearts fielding an ineligible player – Lee opened the scoring with a wonderful one-two with Kyle Lafferty. And after Hearts had scored their second goal of the game the English midfielder was played through on goal by Steven MacLean and should have made it 3-0.
Of course, this was just one match against a team from the Highland League, but it already showed exactly what Lee will be expected to do when the Scottish Premiership campaign kicks off next month.
Last season Lee picked up seven goals and five assists for Luton and although that’s not a huge amount it does showcase a central midfielder that can create and score goals in equal measure. And Hearts haven’t had one of them in quite some time.
When compared to the midfielders Levein has to play with this season, Lee sits second only to Ross Callachan in his goalscoring, with an average of 0.17 goals per 90 minutes for Luton last season. And sits above all of Hearts’ current central midfielders when it came to shots per game last season with 1.8 per 90 minutes.
The 27-year-old can also create goals too. When we look at Lee’s average assists (0.1 per 90) we find that he’s once again near the top with only Hearts’ own Arnaud Djoum ahead of him. His key passes per 90 (0.3) are almost twice that of Callachan’s and with an average of 8.79 passes into the final third per game last season, the numbers clearly show a midfielder that loves either scoring or creating chances for his teammates. And once he’s settled in at Tynecastle, Lee could well push on and do even better than the numbers he averaged last season.
As any Hearts fan will be well aware of, last season’s endeavours in the Premiership consisted of the defence doing their best to concede as few goals as possible, while a largely dysfunctional midfielder tried to coax Kyle Lafferty into scoring the odd goal. The back line did their job and the Northern Irish international scored an impressive 19 goals for the club, but after the departures of Goncalves and David Milinkovic the next, best goalscorer on Levein’s team sheet was Callachan with just four goals in all competitions.
The Hearts manager has tried to amend this obvious fault in his side by signing attacking, central midfielders like Ryan Edwards. Moreover, the likes of Callachan could play further forward now that holding midfielder Oliver Bozanic has arrived from Melbourne City, but it’s Lee that seems to have had the most immediate impact on this Hearts team and the one player that could transform this side going into the new league season.