Hearts seeking two new defenders to complete squad

Robbie Neilson is content with his midfield
Robbie Neilson is content with his midfield
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Hearts intend to recruit two defenders to complete the make-up of their squad for their return to the Scottish Premiership.

Centre-back Blazej Augustyn and strikers Gavin Reilly and Juanma Delgado have already arrived at Tynecastle this summer. Head coach Robbie Neilson admits that there are only likely to be another two players added to the squad, and at least one could be signed over the next week.

A left back is deemed a priority following Adam Eckersley’s departure at the end of last season, while central-defensive cover is required for Augustyn, Alim Ozturk and Jordan McGhee.

“We still need a left back and hope to have something sorted on that front in the next couple of weeks,” said Neilson, who takes his squad to Ireland tomorrow for a four-day pre-season camp. “We also need further cover at the back and that should be us. Hopefully, we can get something else tied up by the time we come back from Ireland. Like anything in football, though, until they say yes or no, it’s always difficult to know for certain.”

Despite the departures of Jason Holt and Scott Robinson, Neilson has no plans to beef up his midfield.

“In central midfield, I’ve got Miguel Pallardo, Morgaro Gomis, Prince Buaben, Angus Beith and Kenny Anderson, who can also play in there, so I’m pretty well covered in there. We’ve got no problems in that area.”

Neilson’s squad fly out to Dublin tomorrow morning and will be based near the village of Enfield, 25 miles west of the Irish capital, for four nights. They play Bohemian at Dalymount Park tomorrow night and will then undergo two days of intensive training, using the on-site facilities at their accommodation, before concluding their trip with another friendly against Shelbourne at Tolka Park on Saturday. Juanma, Reilly and Augustyn are all in contention to make their first appearance in a Hearts jersey. Teenager Beith won’t make the trip due to a groin problem, while Alim Ozturk will travel as he steps up his recovery from a minor operation.

“We fly out in the morning and play at night so we won’t train before the game,” said Neilson. “It’s going to be difficult. Bohemian are well into their season and are a good side. These games are always difficult because they are desperate to beat you. It’s a good start for the boys. Juanma, Gavin and Blazej have come in so we are looking to get them into games right away. We’ll train the two days after the game before we play Shelbourne.”

Meanwhile, Neilson insists Hearts will not demand silly money as a compensation fee for Jason Holt. The midfielder turned down a new contract after falling down the pecking order at Tynecastle and Rangers are among the clubs showing an interest in the 22-year-old. Neilson insists Hearts are keen to see him get fixed up with a new club.

He said: “It is up to whoever wants him to come and speak to us. We won’t demand silly money for him. We don’t want to leave the boy in limbo but we need to protect the development fee.”

Meanwhile, Hearts will take on English Premier League outfit Everton at Tynecastle on Saturday, July 25 (kick-off 3.00pm). Tickets for the match – priced £18 for adults, £10 for concessions and £5 for Under-12s, go on sale at 9am this Thursday.