Hearts boss assures loanees he’s keeping tabs on them

Liam Smith
Liam Smith
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Farmed-out Hearts duo Gary Oliver and Liam Smith have been assured that their progress is being continually monitored while on loan at Stenhousemuir and East Fife respectively.

The teenage duo featured prominently for the first team in pre-season friendlies and in the early rounds of the cup competitions. However, with such a big squad to select from following the addition of a raft of new faces over the summer, head coach Robbie Neilson decided that Oliver and Smith, both standouts for Hearts’ Under-20s last season, would be better served by going out on loan to get regular first-team exposure.

Right-back Smith, 18, moved to East Fife, managed by former Jambo Gary Naysmith, at the end of last month, and is due to remain with the League Two side until January 5.

Striker Oliver, 19, will play for Stenhousemuir until the same date after joining Scott Booth’s League One side just after scoring his first two senior goals in successive matches for Hearts.

Under the terms of their deals, both players are still eligible to turn out for Hearts’ Under-20s, although, for now, they are likely to be left to focus on making the most of their loan stints, with Neilson adamant that he will be kept fully-briefed on the form of the highly-regarded pair. “We’re keeping tabs on Gary and Liam and both of them are doing very well,” said Neilson. “We had people at both their games on Saturday. I speak to their managers all the time and they’re both really pleased with them, which I knew they would be.”

Smith has played the full 90 minutes in both games since he joined East Fife, with his arrival at the League Two club coinciding with them notching their first two league victories of the season.

Oliver, meanwhile, made his debut for Stenhousemuir in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat away to Dunfermline.

Neilson insists both players saw the benefits of going out on loan. He added: “They were happy to go out on loan. They want to play games and it’s a great way for them to develop.”