Stark backs young Holt for Hearts

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Scotland under-21 manager Billy Stark says the Hearts first team could benefit from an injection of young blood – and that Jason Holt should be front of the queue when a chance of senior football arises for the new wave of youthful talent at the club.

While far from critical of Paulo Sergio’s current top-team picks, Stark says the likes of Holt and fellow Scotland under-19 internationals Jack Hamilton, Callum Tapping and David Smith could “add to the chemistry” of the first team.

Stark is set to lead the young Scots into tonight’s under-21 European Championship qualifier in Holland with East Fife’s on-loan goalkeeper Mark Ridgers the only Hearts representative in his squad, but the coach has witnessed Holt’s promise first-hand after drafting in the player from the under-19 setup for two competitive games last month and insists Holt can handle such a step up.

“I have a long list of players that are more than capable of coming in for us, younger ones to make the step up, and Jason is certainly in that category,” said Stark of the 18-year-old Jambo. “He’s a great lad, and loves training and playing. Luckily for us and for Hearts, he’s got tonnes of ability. Sometimes they’re overawed, but Jason was in with the under-21s giving it as good as he got. We know he can handle himself.”

With Vladimir Romanov having declared his vision of a future where Hearts rely on blooding young talent rather than paying hefty transfer fees, Stark says Sergio has a rich pool of young talent at his disposal.

“I wouldn’t be qualified to make a judgment on [whether or not Holt is promoted to the Hearts first team],” said Stark. “Hearts have a good calibre of youth player when you judge them against other Scottish teams. Some of those players, like the Scotland under-19 players, Callum Paterson and Jamie Walker, are exciting. There is still a transformation – they have to take their opportunity in the first team when it comes.

“But, the young ones can do something. You can’t put them in en masse, but one or two can add to the chemistry of the team with their hunger.”