HEARTS still intend to recruit another goalkeeper this summer, but head coach Robbie Neilson insists he would have no concerns about starting the season with new signing Neil Alexander and youngster Jack Hamilton jostling for the No.1 jersey.
The club confirmed yesterday that boyhood Jambo Alexander will take up a player/coach role when his contract with Crystal Palace expires next week. The 36-year-old former Livingston, Cardiff, Ipswich and Rangers keeper returns north after a season in which he made just one appearance for the south-east London club.
With the highly-regarded Jamie MacDonald and his deputy Mark Ridgers having been released at the end of last season, addressing the goalkeeping void has been a priority for Neilson. He is keen to add another custodian, but the arrival of the Edinburgh-born Alexander means there is less pressure to rush one in.
“We’d like to get another goalkeeper in, but there’s no rush now,” Neilson told the Evening News. “With Neil and young Jack, we’ve got two good goalkeepers we’re happy with.
“We’ve got our eye on a couple of other keepers, so hopefully something might happen in the next three or four weeks on that front. But if we don’t get anyone in, we’ll be more than content to start the new season with Neil and Jack. That’s a top-class keeper and a great prospect, so we’d have no problem with that.”
Alexander was Rangers’ first-choice keeper until the season before last and the veteran can boast a Uefa Cup final appearance with the Ibrox side among his accomplishments. Neilson believes his experience will be invaluable in aiding the development of Hamilton, the highly-rated 20-year-old. “The first conversation I had with him was about whether he’d be interested in a player-coach role, so it’s very pleasing that he decided to take it,” said Neilson.
“He had other options elsewhere, but he listened to the ideas about how we want to take the club forward and he wanted to come on board. He’ll bring great experience and he’ll be a good goalkeeper and a good goalkeeping coach.
“He’s doing his licence just now and he’s taking the step into coaching but he’s also still a top-class keeper who’s been at Rangers and Crystal Palace in the last few years.”
Alexander is relishing the prospect of joining the club he has supported since childhood. “As a boyhood Hearts fan, I am delighted to get the chance to join a club I have supported for many years,” he said.
“With the coaching side of it as well, this is a fantastic opportunity for me. At 36, I need to start looking to the future and want to get involved in coaching. The club has given me a great chance to get a foot on the ladder and it’s an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down.”