Craig Levein has accepted that it is just a matter of time until Jamie Walker leaves Hearts but he is determined to make the most of his talents while he still has him.
His departure looked likely in the summer, but Rangers could not meet the asking price.
That unsettled the winger, but having regained his form in recent outings, he has fresh suitors, with Wigan Athletic said to be the latest to be preparing a bid. The Hearts manager has revealed that they may well get their man as early as January.
“He might leave in January, or he might leave in the summer. These things are always part of any decision making,” said Levein, who described the academy graduate as “brilliant”.
“We’ve discussed him staying, but he’s going to leave. It was good for me to know. We had a fairly straightforward conversation. I get everything he’s saying.
“We’ve had a number of players who have kind of gone through the same process – Callum Paterson we nearly sold before he did his knee, we had Sam Nicolson, and now Jamie.
“These guys have been here a long time, and they’ve been here through a period of some real dark times as well.
“They had their wages stopped, weren’t paid, and in a football career it’s very rare these days a player will stick around for a significant period of time.
“Jamie’s probably the last of these guys who came through – and he’s not a kid anymore. He’s 23.”
But while he does have him, he fully intends to utilise him, confident that he could be a massive player for the club in the midweek derby.
“Absolutely. He’s alright. I’m not worried about him. I’m happy he’s focused and he’s playing well. Through a time when we were toiling a bit to get a rhythm, he’s probably been our best player most weeks.”