Ian Cathro admitted today Hearts will struggle to replace Callum Paterson with a similar type of right-back.
The 22-year-old plans to leave Tynecastle on freedom of contract when he recovers from injury, but finding a player with the same attributes will be difficult for the Edinburgh club.
Head coach Cathro has begun talks aimed at extending Andraz Struna’s Hearts contract. Liam Smith has also proven his quality in defence in recent matches.
Cathro stressed it would be unfair to compare anyone to Paterson due to his unique pace, strength and attack-minded approach. The Scotland defender began running last week for the first time since damaging cruciate and medial knee ligaments last December.
“I’m pleased for him. It’s quite a good landmark,” Cathro told the Evening News.
“It’s been a while and when you feel yourself moving again it’s an important step. I’m pleased things are going to plan for him.
“I don’t see us bringing in a right-back who replaces what Callum gives. Callum has developed into a player with his own attributes.
“They’re a bit different. He’s a powerful player who always has an influence and most of the time impacts the game. That’s one of the reasons he’s been so important.
“He has shaped how Hearts have played for a couple of years down the right side. I don’t think replacing him like-for-like is something we could do.
“All we can do is support him through his rehabilitation and then focus on the right options we want in our squad to play on that side of the defence.” Cathro is keen that whoever plays right-back for Hearts next season is not compared to Paterson. Struna is favourite for the role at the moment.
“It’s very different because Callum has some unique qualities and we use those qualities because you can affect the game with them. Andraz is a different player.
“I think he has given us quite good consistency throughout,” said Cathro.