AFTER receiving confirmation that Callum Paterson is out injured for two months, Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson today placed full confidence in 18-year-olds Jordan McGhee and Liam Smith to deputise for the right-back.
Those two will battle for Paterson’s place after the defender underwent surgery in Bradford yesterday.
News that the player will be sidelined for eight to ten weeks was a relief for Neilson, who feared he would be without Paterson for much longer. A specialist surgeon performed a medial menisectomy to tidy up the left knee he injured against Annan Athletic last weekend.
His absence creates a golden opportunity for McGhee or Smith to start the season in the first team. McGhee is most likely to fill the right-back role for Hearts’ opening league game against Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday week. He has more first-team experience than Smith, who remains untried at senior level.
Neilson stressed today that whoever is selected will be a more-than-able deputy. “I’ve got Jordan and I’ve got Liam Smith as well. Both of them are boys who I’d be more than confident of putting in there,” said Neilson. “We’ve got options so it’s obviously disappointing to lose Callum but we’ve got boys who can go in there. At the moment we’ve got cover and we’re happy with what we’ve got.” Asked whether playing away from home in a hostile atmosphere at Ibrox could intimidate an inexperienced player, Neilson said: “Sometimes it’s the best thing for them. Sometimes it’s easier for them to go and play at somewhere like Ibrox than it is to go to a Cowdenbeath or a Dumbarton. They can go to Ibrox and just play.”
Hearts have issued another contract extension to one of their promising young players. Winger Jamie Walker committed himself to Tynecastle until 2017, joining others such as Sam Nicholson, Gary Oliver, Callum Paterson, Kevin McHattie, Dale Carrick and Jack Hamilton in signing new deals.
Meanwhile, the Petrofac Training Cup second round tie against Livingston will take place at the Energy Assets Arena in Livingston on Wednesday, August 20, with a 7.45pm kick-off.