Perry Kitchen’s arrival at Hearts will begin a recruitment drive to expand Robbie Neilson’s squad for next season.
The Edinburgh club want a larger first-team pool with Europa League qualifiers likely this summer. They intend to sign new players and promote several promising youngsters at the end of the current campaign.
Kitchen has been in America finalising a visa for his move to Tynecastle, which should be completed in the next few days. The USA internationalist is seen as the first piece in a jigsaw being built to ensure Hearts are ready for the demands of season 2016/17.
Neilson’s side are third in the Scottish Premiership and almost certain to secure a place in the qualifying stages of the Europa League. The first round, first leg of that competition takes place on June 30 this year, by which time new faces and some Riccarton academy graduates will have joined the first-team squad. Liam Smith, Angus Beith, Robbie Buchanan and Dario Zanatta are all in line for promotion.
“We’ve got Perry coming in and that’s getting sorted out in the next couple of days. Then we’ll start planning for next year,” said Neilson, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “I’ve got an idea of what we’ll do. We’ll probably start the process in the next few weeks and get things done early. We’ll be speaking to people about who is coming and who is going.
“We will need a bigger squad than we had this season. We’ll promote some of the young kids. Guys like Smith, Beith, Buchanan and Zanatta will take more of a prominent role in the first team. We’ll also bring a few more players in.
“It’s important to get young players through and give them an opportunity. Part of the club’s ethos is to develop them so we need to give them a chance. They’ll be of a good standard when they do come in. It’s important we win games and play well, but you’ve still got to give these kids a chance.”
Smith, 19, has played the last two games at right-back with Callum Paterson injured. “With Liam coming in, we’ve kept the team stable round about him,” said Neilson. “When you’re bringing in a young player, you can’t make too many changes. They need a chance to come into a settled team. Liam has come in and done really well.”