Things are looking far more positive for Hearts now than when I wrote my last column two months ago after an encouraging period of close-season transfer activity.
There’s no doubt we’ve changed tact in terms of the make-up of the squad, with an emphasis on recruiting tried-and-tested players who have a bit of familiarity with the management. I think the supporters have definitely been uplifted by our recruitment drive thus far.
Kyle Lafferty is the signing everybody is getting excited about, and he certainly comes with good pedigree, but it is impossible to say for sure at this stage which of the new faces will have the biggest impact. For all we know just now, Cole Stockton could end up emerging as our best signing of the summer. It just depends who adapts best to the demands of playing for Hearts, but the main thing is that we have recruited players who look from the outset like they are better equipped for the demands of Scottish football than the batch we signed in January.
For all the excitement about the new players, I think keeping hold of Jamie Walker beyond this transfer window would be just as significant as any signing we make. Retaining Jamie is a no-brainer for me because he’s the most effective creative player we have. If his head’s right he could have a massive influence this season with the solid base he has behind him.
I’d like to see a bit more quality in central midfield, but we’ve still got Arnaud Djoum to come back in, which will strengthen us, while the recruitment of an experienced goalkeeper would do likewise
The way things are shaping up, I would be hugely disappointed if we weren’t pushing to get back into Europe next season. We’ve assembled a strong nucleus of seasoned professionals, and we also have quite a few promising young players on the fringes, and we look like we have a team, on paper at least, that will be far more competitive than the side that performed so meekly over the last five months of last season. Ultimately, however, it all boils down to what happens on the pitch, and in that regard it’s important we get off to a winning start away to Elgin tomorrow. With four away games to kick off our league campaign, it would be great for morale if we could win both our away games in the Betfred Cup before that.