5 things Hearts fans need to know about signing target Conor Shaughnessy

Conor Shaughnessy in action for Leeds United.
Conor Shaughnessy in action for Leeds United.
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With Hearts on the verge of signing Conor Shaughnessy on a loan deal from Leeds United, Joel Sked looks at the defender's career.

READ MORE: Hearts set to sign Leeds defender Conor Shaughnessy as Jimmy Dunne’s replacement

Leeds' high hopes

The Galway native started his career at Reading, but was released in 2016. After a successful trial he was signed to Leeds' development team for a season before being rewarded with a one-year contract extension in May 2017.

The 2017/18 campaign was his breakthrough, making such an impression on then manager Thomas Christiansen that he was handed a four-year deal in September 2017.

The club's academy boss Adam Underwood said at the time: "I'm delighted for Conor. He is a hard-working, talented and versatile footballer who has an excellent attitude and work ethic."

Positional change

Leeds signed Shaughnessy as a midfielder. It wasn't until the arrival of Christiansen that the idea of playing in defence was explored.

Shaughnessy had the required physique for the role and a defensive injury crisis resulted in the Irishman being propelled into the first team.

“He has the possibility to play as a No.6 and that was the first intention that I had when I saw him,” said Christiansen. “But now he gives me another option playing as a centre back and this is good that we have players who can play in several positions for the squad.

“I have said that he is an intelligent player who can play in several positions and he will be an important guy for this team.”

READ MORE: Hearts thank fans’ favourite Jimmy Dunne as club confirms Burnley defender’s exit

Injury issues

Shaughnessy's development was stunted by a serious injury picked up in January last year. The player lasted only six minutes of Leeds' goalless draw with rivals Hull City when he hurt his knee. It kept him out of the remainder of the 2017/18 campaign.

By the time Shaughnessy had recovered, Marcelo Bielsa had been installed as the new manager and the Argentine's demanding pre-season was already up and running. This term he has had to contend with niggles and as such has only been involved in four squads.

He has made just one appearance, starting the defeat to Preston North End in the Carabao Cup. He was replaced after 45 minutes.

Bielsa praise

Despite his lack of game time and Leeds' defensive issues in terms of numbers, he has still earned praise from Bielsa. The Argentine is a peculiar manager who has his own unique demands, but admitted he trusted Shaughnessy.

"There is a struggle inside the team to be a part of the group and when you get a position inside the team it’s not the final one," he said. "You can be among the 18 or 19 players and in some moments you can be out of this list.

"Shaughnessy has skills and conditions. He has been a little bit sanctioned by the injuries, but he has the skills to be inside the team."

Family ties

The 22-year-old won't be entering the unknown in joining Hearts. The concept of Scottish football won't be foreign to him with one very familiar face waiting for him. Conor's brother is St Johnstone captain Joe Shaughnessy.

The Hearts recruit can take inspiration from his sibling. Joe hadn't yet turned 17 when he made the move to Aberdeen where he spent six years and enjoyed two loan spells, at Forfar Athletic and Falkirk. He struggled to convince at Pittodrie, playing mostly as a right-back.

After nearly 60 games for the Dons it wasn't a surprise when he left the club on a free in 2015 joining St Johnstone.

In his fourth season in Perth, he has been Mr Consistency for Saints boss Tommy Wright having been shaped into a centre-back and developing alongside a more experienced centre-back in Steven Anderson. Now he is the leader of the club and will likely attract interest now he is out of contract at the end of the season.