Ian Cathro believes Kyle Lafferty can produce the best football of his career at Hearts.
The 29-year-old Northern Ireland striker arrived at Tynecastle on a two-year deal this week amid a wave of hype.
Head coach Cathro feels his new recruit is yet to reach the peak of his powers but is confident that his high-energy approach will allow him to flourish with Hearts.
“I reckon that the brightest days of his football career are ahead of him and I think he is at a point in his life and career where he is very, very hungry to play,” said Cathro. “He has a hunger for the ball and a desire to work and it is well known about him that when you are on the pitch with him then you know he is helping you. No matter how the game is going, you know he is helping you. That is so important. That is something we want in the team so I was was very clear that I wanted to be able to bring Kyle to the club. I have wanted to do that for quite some time.
“Athletically he is probably one of the best and then there is his movement in the box and willingness to just go and to work.”
Cathro envisages Lafferty emerging as one of the leaders of the Hearts team. “He is a strong character and he has personality on the pitch and these are all things I have wanted to bring to the team in that position,” he said. “He is also someone who is completely ready and at a stage of his life and career where he has a lot of hunger and a lot of motivation for a whole lot of reasons. He will take a lead role and handle a wee bit of pressure and the expectations. He has the personality that is needed to wear that No.9 shirt.
“He is comfortable. He is a guy who is ready. We have some guys in the squad who are at that point and we have added another in Christophe [Berra] and another in Kyle.”
Meanwhile, Cathro is hopeful that Jamie Walker, whose contract expires next summer, will still be at Hearts for the upcoming season. The talismanic midfielder, who is currently nursing a minor injury, has so far been reluctant to commit to a new deal but, despite interest from Rangers, no club has met Hearts’ valuation yet.
“The situation with Jamie ended up being a bit too noisy for what it actually was,” said Cathro. “Some things ended up becoming a bit silly. But Jamie has dealt with it fine and trained really well. He is focusing on how he improves himself for next season and he’s in a good place.
“If he doesn’t sign on again his contract will expire and that will be that. But, have we given up hope on him agreeing a new deal? Not at all.”
Arnaud Djoum’s future has also been the subject of speculation but Cathro expects him to join up with the Hearts squad in a fortnight following Confederations Cup duty with Cameroon.
“Arnaud will be back on July 17,” he said. “He needs some rest because he went away with Cameroon immediately. There is always speculation. He is in France on holiday.”
Cathro confirmed that Hearts, who play their first friendly of the summer away to Livingston today, are looking for a new goalkeeper to compete with Jack Hamilton and Viktor Noring.
“Goalkeeper is an area we are looking at but the biggest focus just now is helping the ones we have improve,” he said. “We are assessing that just now. We are not in talks with any keeper just now but if we can see an area we can improve, we are open-minded.
“Jack will be better next season and the seasons after that. He is a young goalkeeper who is important for this club and has a future as a No.1.”