Craig Levein on why Hearts won’t consider free-agent striker swoop

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Hearts don’t plan to sign any free agent strikers before January, manager Craig Levein has confirmed.

Most players available now have not played for several months and Levein is not keen to recruit anyone who isn’t properly match fit.

Craig Levein will work with what he's got until January

Craig Levein will work with what he's got until January

Injuries to the experienced Steven Naismith and imposing Englishman Uche Ikpeazu leave Hearts light in the attacking department, where Steven MacLean and Craig Wighton are now the two main forwards.

Czech striker David Vanecek has signed a pre-contract agreement to join the Edinburgh club but cannot be registered to play until January.

Levein and his coaching staff have scoured lists of players who are free agents and able to sign outwith a transfer window. However, they have encountered a common problem due to lack of match practice.

For that reason, Hearts will try to get by with those already at their disposal rather than risk bringing in an unknown quantity who needs several weeks to regain sharpness. Levein said he could also use certain other players in attack if necessary over the coming weeks.

“Any player who is available now hasn’t played since August. That’s the problem,” the manager told the Evening News. “There are some available but it takes weeks to get people up to speed. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to put them in the team and wait for games for that to happen. We just have to get by.

“Steven MacLean is there, Craig Wighton has done quite well coming on at times and he is getting there. I think he can help us. At a push, I can put Peter [Haring] up front or Callumn [Morrison], although I think we miss Peter in midfield when he isn’t there. It’s an option for me, at least.”

Hearts improved their squad by signing 18 players following the end of last season. Levein is reluctant to bring in a 19th new face simply for the sake of it. Every free agent I’ve looked at hasn’t played for a long time, most of them since last season,” he continued. “I don’t know enough about them to be sure. One of the things we did with our recruitment this year was make sure we brought the right type of people into the building. I can’t be sure of that with some free agents. That issue, on top of the fact players wouldn’t be fit enough and ready to play, makes it too difficult to bring someone in just now.”