Teenage Hearts striker Aidan Keena will be promoted to the club’s first-team squad this summer after a blistering run of goalscoring form on loan at Queen’s Park.
Keena’s double in Saturday’s 3-2 win at Stranraer took his total to seven goals in just eight appearances for the League One side. Hearts manager Craig Levein now intends to see how he handles the Ladbrokes Premiership next season.
Keena, 18, joined Queen’s Park on loan in January, six months after Hearts paid €10,000 to sign him from St Patrick’s Athletic in his native Republic of Ireland. He made one senior appearance at Tynecastle in November and played regularly for the Under-20 team before Christmas.
He was loaned out to test his readiness for first-team level. Levein is delighted with the forward’s progress and scoring record at Queen’s Park and will give him the chance to stake a first-team claim when he returns to Riccarton in June.
“All the reports I’ve been getting have been excellent. I’m pleased he’s managed to get some goals,” Levein told the Evening News. “Hopefully this loan spell will push him on and make him ready to compete in the summer. It gives us another player for the first-team squad.
“Aidan was playing for St Pat’s reserves and the initial contact came last year through our coach, Jon Daly. We paid a little bit of money for him, about ¤10,000, but it seems to have been money well spent.
“With all younger players, they’re not what I’d consider to be an asset until they get into the first team and prove themselves. He’s doing well in training and he’s scoring goals so fingers crossed that gives him the confidence to push for a place in the summer.”
Keena signed a three-year contract with Hearts last August. Coaching staff felt he would benefit more from playing every week during the second half of the season.
“He was involved in one first-team match before we had a discussion in January,” explained Levein. “He had also been doing well in training, but with having Kyle Lafferty and Steven Naismith he wasn’t going to play every week.
“It was about whether to keep him around so he could get another four or five appearances before the end of the season, or send him out on loan. If he went on loan then hopefully he would do well and come back in the summer to compete for one of the four striker slots.
“Looking at him, he’s quite physically robust so I thought coping out on loan wouldn’t be a major problem for him. He’s done well at Queen’s Park and I’ve been really chuffed with him. We’ve got a team of scouts who look at all the loan players so Aidan is getting watched every week.”