Loan deals for emerging Hearts youngsters will continue next season as head coach Robbie Neilson tries to develop players into first-team regulars.
With Gary Oliver possibly joining Queen of the South as part of a deal for Gavin Reilly, Neilson will also consider loaning out other Riccarton academy graduates.
He told the Evening News today that all of Hearts’ professional players will report for pre-season training on the 19th of this month and will train together for the first couple of weeks. Thereafter, Neilson and his coaching staff will decide who forms the first-team squad, who will join the under-20s and who goes on loan.
Neilson explained that loan moves are vital for young players to progress and Hearts want their best youth players to have senior football experience. He also indicated that different players will be required for different games next season and that the team’s formation will change frequently.
“We’ll change formations and play with one up, two up and even three up at times. We need to have the options to do that,” said Neilson. “Everyone will come in and train together for the first three or four weeks and we’ll get a look at them all. Then I’ll make a decision on where I think their development is and where I think they need to go.
“It’s massive for young player to get out [on loan] and play. They need to go and play football that is important. They can play in the under-20s and it’s too easy for them. There isn’t enough competition and it’s not physical enough for them. That’s why we like them to go out and play men’s football against guys with mortgages on the line and families to provide for.
“It means something to these guys and it’s really important for younger players to do that.”
Neilson hopes some younger players can impose themselves on Hearts’ first-team squad during pre-season. Others will be loaned out for their own benefit to accelerate their development across all leagues in Scotland. Last year players such as Oliver were loaned to teams like Stenhousemuir in League 1.
“They will all come back and it’s a clean slate,” he said. “We will look at it all and decide where everyone is. It’s an opportunity for the young boys to work over the summer and try to get themselves into the first-team plans.
“If they do that, then they’ll stay in the first-team squad.
“If we feel that going out on loan to another team would help them develop, then we’ll do that. The first two or three weeks of pre-season are really important for all the younger ones.”