Kuol backed to rebound after tough week for 'wonderkid'

Garang Kuol has been given a big vote of support from his club captain at Hearts after a tough week for Australian soccer's 'wonderkid'.

Australia's top young soccer prospect Garang Kuol has been given encouraging and sympathetic support by his captain at Hearts after enduring a chastening week in his UK footballing education.

Teenager Kuol was hauled off at halftime in his full debut in the Scottish Premiership on Wednesday, having struggled badly in the 2-0 defeat by Rangers after being played out of position in an unfamiliar midfield position.

Now it remains to be seen if Hearts boss Robbie Neilson will thrust the 18-year-old straight back into the fray in an attacking role when the Edinburgh club host Dundee United on Saturday.

But Hearts skipper Lawrence Shankland is in no doubt the young Newcastle United loanee Kuol, who had also berated himself for missing a chance he felt he should have scored against Livingston last weekend, just needs a bit of time and nurturing to show everyone his rare ability.

"It's a tough night for a kid coming to a new league," Shankland told reporters, reflecting on a night which showed why Premier League Newcastle have sent him north of the border to learn about the demanding, physical nature of the British game.

"The football is different and there will be a lot of learning, but he is a kid and he needs to be given time to develop. It's a massive difference between playing under-23s football down the road and playing first-team football for Hearts against Rangers.

"If you look at his career, I don't think he has played that much first team football, but he looks good in training, he has talent. He has not got the 'wonderkid' tag for no reason.

"The talent just needs to be nurtured to make him a first-team player. And I'm sure it will be. It's experience. Everybody needs to get it and along the way you make mistakes.

"I made plenty myself at that age and older. That's why I'm 27 now with grey hair!

"He is a young kid as well and people need to give him time. He is only 18 and it's hard when young players get this 'wonderkid' name because it travels with them.

"People just need to let him play, he is a kid."

It had been a tough baptism for Kuol, whose poor challenge had given Rangers the free-kick from which they went on to take an early lead but, though he looked overwhelmed in midfield, he earned plaudits for the way he battled on and showed moments of attacking flair when Neilson moved him forward.

"With Garang, it's a big learning curve for him," Neilson said.

"We know that in possession and driving at people, he's got unbelievable ability. He saw that with his pass for Barrie McKay in the first half. The defensive aspects he needs to work at - and he knows that himself."