Five Hearts academy players are latest to sign professional deals
Hearts signed five prodigious teenagers on professional contracts last night to continue their commitment to youth development.
The latest Riccarton academy graduates to join the squad were officially welcomed at a “Youth To Pro” dinner staged by the club at Tynecastle Park.
Defenders Leon Watson and Arron Darge, plus midfielder Jay Charleston-King and striker Ryan Schiavone are all aged 16 and have represented Scotland at youth level. Full-back Sean Docherty will officially put pen to paper when he turns 16 in September.
The quintet are the next generation of protégés who Hearts believe have a bright future. The Edinburgh club signed a record nine academy kids on professional deals last summer and eight the year before. Many of those, such as Harry Cochrane, Anthony McDonald, Connor Smith and Aaron Hickey have already broken into the first team.
The new intakes will initially play for Hearts Under-18s and try to push for game time at reserve level next season. Watson and Charleston-King have already featured for the reserves under coach Andy Kirk.
Watson is a left-footed full-back who joined the Hearts academy from Bonnyrigg Rose Boys Club in 2013. Known as Leo, he has signed a three-year contract and has three appearances for Scotland Under-16s.
He likes to get forward to deliver crosses and is strong in both attacking and defensive one-on-one situations. He is also quick with a good passing range. Darge is a right-sided centre-back who played for Scotland Under-16s against Australia this year. He joined Hearts two years ago from Longniddry Villa and has now signed a three-year deal.
The former North Berwick High School pupil is the brother of Scotland Rugby Under-20 flanker, Rory. As a centre-half, he is comfortable under pressure and looks to get the ball forward through his passing.
Also tied up for the next three seasons is right-sided midfielder Charleston-King. He arrived at Riccarton from Livingston in 2016 and made his Scotland Under-16 debut last August against Turkey.
He is small in stature but can operate as both a striker and attacking midfielder. His ability to take opponents on and drive his team forward is a major feature of his play.
Striker Schiavone has been with Hearts since under-13 level having signed from Crossford Sports BC. He has signed a two-year contract and is another Scotland Under-16 internationalist.
He is a versatile and adaptable forward, able to play through the middle and out wide. He likes to get into the penalty area whenever possible in search of goals. Out of possession, he presses opponents hard and tracks back well when needed.
Docherty is a right-back who joined the Riccarton academy from Strathaven Dynamo BC in 2013. He has agreed to a two-year deal, which will be officially completed after his 16th birthday in September.
Despite his frame, Docherty enjoys competing physically. He likes attacking by overlap but is also strong defensively and is rarely beaten by his opposite man.