Stewart set for Hearts return

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MICHAEL STEWART is in the frame to return to Hearts for a third spell as the Tynecastle club bid to tie up their transfer business for the summer ahead of tonight’s deadline.

The 30-year-old midfielder is one of the players being considered by the Hearts hierarchy, and as he remains a free agent following his departure from Charlton Athletic at the end of last season, he is not bound by the rules of the transfer window, meaning his next move doesn’t necessarily have to be tied up tonight.

Stewart, a former Hearts captain, was recommended to manager Paulo Sergio by owner Vladimir Romanov, who has had the Edinburgh-born player on his books twice previously.

The former Manchester United youngster was at Hearts on a season-long loan when the majority shareholder first took an interest in the club in 2004. And after crossing the city to join Hibernian in 2005, the central midfielder returned to Hearts in 2007. He was an integral member of the side that finished third under Csaba Laszlo in 2008/09 and was handed the captaincy the following season after the departures of Christophe Berra and Robbie Neilson.

The exit of Laszlo, who valued Stewart highly, last January saw a downturn in the player’s Tynecastle career and, after a breakdown in relationship with Laszlo’s successor, Jim Jefferies, which saw Stewart stripped of the captaincy last April, it came as little surprise when he left the club in May last year.

He joined Turkish outfit Genclerbirligi but that move turned sour after a dispute with the club and he was soon on the lookout for a new club after his contract was cancelled in January this year. After a host of trials, he was offered a short-term deal at Charlton, where he made nine appearances in League One.

A possible return would polarise opinion among Hearts supporters as Stewart’s quality was often undermined by his knack of allowing the red mist to descend, resulting in five red cards during his previous spells.

While Sergio has a list of other players on his wishlist, the club have also looked into the prospect of bringing Jose Goncalves and Bruno Aguiar back to Tynecastle, but any moves for those two are thought unlikely as both players are currently under contract at FC Sion and Omonia Nicosia respectively.