IT HAS been well-documented that Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov no longer wishes to splash his own cash on improving the first-team squad at Tynecastle. But, according to former Tynecastle chairman Leslie Deans, new manager John McGlynn may not have to make wholesale changes to the squad he inherited from Paulo Sergio.
McGlynn is fully aware he will have limited amounts with which to do business in the transfer market over the coming weeks, although supporters can still expect a least a couple of new faces.
Over the course of the last six months or so, Hearts have lost Ian Black, Rudi Skacel, Craig Beattie, Stephen Elliott, Gary Glen, David Obua, Suso, Marian Kello, Janos Balogh, Jason Thomson and Calum Elliot, leaving them short of options in various departments.
However, while youth players will be expected to push for a place in the first team this season, the bones of an experienced side remain at McGlynn’s disposal.
Having had his money slashed while at Raith Rovers, the 50-year-old is used to working on a tight budget and having to unearth hidden gems.
That is the kind of frugal approach that could see McGlynn succeed where others fail in the transfer market this season.
The nucleus of the side which lifted the Scottish Cup in May remains and, while Craig Gordon is training with Hearts at the moment, McGlynn knows he has a safe pair of hands available to him in the shape of Jamie MacDonald, while Mark Ridgers – who spent half of last season on loan at East Fife – is back at Tynecastle and keen to stake his claim.
His defence as a whole is without doubt the strongest area of the current Hearts side, with Andy Webster and Marius Zaliukas paired in the centre, flanked by Danny Grainger at left-back and Ryan McGowan on the right.
Andrew Driver, David Templeton, Darren Barr and Scott Robinson are likely to be relied on in the middle of the park, while Jamie Hamill, who is set to miss the start of the season following a serious knee injury last term, can also line up at full-back. Jason Holt can also expect more game time.
Up front is where McGlynn may be keen to add strength in depth. John Sutton returned to the Tynecastle club for pre-season training on Monday, having spent most of last season on loan at Australian A-League side Central Coast Mariners and he is joined by youngsters David Smith and Gordon Smith as McGlynn’s only real attacking options.
Former Livingston striker Rory Boulding hopes to add his name to that list after joining the Jambos for a trial period at the beginning of this week but Deans doesn’t expect many more to follow.
He said: “We have the nucleus of the squad from last season and there are a lot of experienced professionals in there. Jamie MacDonald, Marius Zaliukas, Andy Webster, Jamie Hamill, Darren Barr – all good, solid and experienced professionals who have already played a number of games for the club.
“We have a great crop of youngsters in the background as well and it has been well documented that John McGlynn has worked with these guys, developed and brought them on.
“When John was with Raith he took Denis Prychynenko and Jason Holt on loan so he knows them already. I would just like to see them stepping up to the plate now.
“Plenty of managers have brought younger players into their sides and with a degree of success. I remember Sir Alex Ferguson doing the very same thing when he was the manager of Aberdeen back in the 1980s.
“He gave John Hewitt and Eric Black their chance at age of just 17 or 18 and they went on to become big players for the club. He was never frightened to give someone a chance if he felt that he merited it. If you’re good enough, then you’re old enough.
“This season I am looking for two of our great prospects, David Templeton and Andy Driver, to flourish again.”
While Deans would love to see a few new quality signings, he appreciates that McGlynn’s hands will be tied because of budget constraints.
And he conceded: “What you want and what you can have are two different things at the moment. It’s back to a question of finance. The club has got to cut its cloth accordingly.
“Of course, you could have a wish list, but it’s what is realistic that we have to look at and the club and the manager will already know their budget.
“Maybe the fresh start will help us to see the real John Sutton because he has been away for a period of time now and has had some first-team football and he has a chance to show what he can really do.
“Up front, Gordon Smith may also be given his chance, although that is perhaps an area that the manager will want to strengthen. I think that we just have to wait and see what happens. There may well be one or two additions prior to the start of the season but, whatever happens, I am sure that the club will only take someone on if they really feel that he can be of benefit to the side.”
There have been claims by some that Hearts will now be able to mount a serious challenge to SPL champions Celtic, now that Rangers are out of the equation.
While Hearts lifted the Scottish Cup last season at the expense of their city rivals Hibs, their final league position of fifth was a source of frustration to some.
However, Deans admitted that he, for one, would take the same end to the season this time around: “I think if you asked, everyone wants the club to finish as high up the league as they possibly can.
“However, I suspect that virtually every Hearts supporter, if they had to choose, would take a fifth-place finish in the league again if it meant that the team could beat Hibs in the Scottish Cup final again next May.”
And, cautioning against too much optimism where league hopes are concerned, Deans continued: “Celtic’s budget is considerably greater than Hearts. That is fact and that is not going to change.
“No-one can make wild promises or predictions about the season ahead although Hearts will do the best that they can. I believe the structure at Tynecastle is good. We have good people in the right positions – and a manager whose dream job was to come to Tynecastle.
“He is respected in football and I think that it was an excellent decision to bring him back to the club.”