Hearts sign Nathaniel Atkinson after buying out defender's Melbourne City contract
Hearts opened an early Christmas present for supporters by announcing the signing of Melbourne City defender Nathaniel Atkinson.
The Edinburgh club agreed an undisclosed fee to capture the 22-year-old Australian, whose contract in Australia still had more than 18 months to run. His UK work permit has still to be approved by Government officials but that is not expected to be a problem.
Atkinson is an adventurous and energetic right-back who is comfortable operating as a wing-back. He enjoys attacking, getting involved in the final third of the pitch and delivering crosses into the penalty area.
Michael Smith is the established right-back at Hearts and Atkinson will compete with the Northern Irishman during the second half of the campaign. The new recruit has already agreed terms on a three-and-a-half-year contract.
Manager Robbie Neilson told the club’s official website: “I’m delighted that we’ve got Nathaniel on board. He’s a really talented player and very highly thought of in Australia, so it’s a bit of a coup to get him.
“He’ll bring energy and ability to the team and the competition for places will raise levels throughout the squad. I’m really looking forward to working with him.”
Sporting director Joe Savage added: “We’ve put a lot of hard work into making this move happen so we’re thrilled that it’s on the verge of being completed.
“There are a lot of people to thank but I’d like to especially mention Vince Grella [Atkinson’s agent], who has been instrumental in getting this deal done.
“Nathaniel fits the profile we’re looking for – he’s young, talented and hungry to succeed. We think he can go on to do great things and I’m sure the fans are really going to enjoy watching him in a Hearts shirt.”
Atkinson is already familiar with the Hearts midfielder Cammy Devlin as the two were team-mates in Australia’s Olympic squad during the summer.
Having helped Melbourne City win a historic first A-League title this year, Atkinson is eager to move to Europe and test himself at a higher level.
His arrival at Tynecastle Park will the first of the January transfer window, with a new attacker also coveted by Neilson and Savage.