Hearts transfer analysis: Huge turnaround but strong spine in place

Christophe Berra has been a fine acquistion as captain. Pic: SNS
Christophe Berra has been a fine acquistion as captain. Pic: SNS
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Hearts’ summer overhaul was always likely to be major given the insipid displays from some short-term signings between January and May. After ten new recruits and a total of 23 departures, their squad now seems more streamlined and stronger in every department.

Keeping Jamie Walker beyond the transfer window will either be a masterstroke or a disaster. If the 24-year-old winger can forget about moving to Rangers and recapture his best form, he is a major asset on the field. If not, he could be in for a tough few months.

By recruiting internationalists like centre-back Christophe Berra, striker Kyle Lafferty and full-back Michael Smith, Hearts have put together a strong spine. Berra’s return as captain provides leadership, Lafferty’s quality up front is clear and Smith is an able replacement for Callum Paterson on the right.

Cole Stockton provides competition in attack after arriving from Tranmere Rovers, Connor Randall is a useful loanee from Liverpool, and the Pole Rafal Grzelak has good versatility in defence and midfield. Ashley Smith-Brown, the left-back on loan from Manchester City, has yet to get going due to injury.

Goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin, midfielder Ross Callachan and winger Manuel Milinkovic arrived in the final days of the transfer window to reinforce those positions.

Meanwhile, the cull has been severe as a total of 23 players have exited Tynecastle since the end of last season. Most notably, Paterson, Sam Nicholson, Perry Kitchen, Conor Sammon and Bjorn Johnsen have all gone, freeing up wages for some of the above arrivals.

Left-backs Juwon Oshaniwa and Faycal Rherras agreed to have their contracts cancelled, while academy graduates Billy King and Jordan McGhee finally left for regular game time at Dundee United and Falkirk respectively.

Andraz Struna, Tasos Avlonitis and Alex Tziolis returned to the Continent, with Struna in talks about a possible move to Major League Soccer club New York City FC.

The turnaround has been considerable but Hearts appear in better shape for the season ahead. Having sacked head coach Ian Cathro and persuaded Craig Levein to take over whilst remaining director of football, they will be confident of progressing during the coming weeks and months.