Craig Levein has revealed that teenage midfielder Harry Cochrane is set to sign a new contract with Hearts.
The highly-regarded 16-year-old, who has made 19 appearances since making his debut six months ago, currently has a deal until 2020, but that is set to be extended to 2021 on improved terms.
“We’re re-negotiating a contract with Harry which will hopefully be done soon,” said Levein. “He has had an amazing start to his football career but that’s all it is, just a start. He has played way, way more matches than I could ever have imagined because he has been really good. And I have almost taken out of my thought process the fact he is a bairn, because he hasn’t played like one.
“There’ll be more news shortly on Harry’s contract, but I think it’s important that the performances he has had are recognised. We want to keep a hold of our best young players so they can benefit us much more than just a handful of games. I would like to get two or three more seasons out of Harry, 100-odd games at least, before he does anything else, so that will be good for us.”
Anther player who could be in line for a new contract is Aaron Hughes. The 38-year-old Northern Irish defender has made 18 appearances this season but, with his deal due to expire this summer, Levein is open to retaining the services of the veteran, one of several senior professionals deemed crucial to ensuring high standards are maintained within the squad. The manager plans to have a discussion with Hughes over the next fortnight.
“I haven’t had the conversation with Aaron about what he wants to do next season,” said Levein. “If there is ever a player who is capable of playing another year at his age then it is Aaron. It is just whether he wants to. I would like him to stay but not just because of what he does on the field, where he is very consistent.
“When he has been fit and available he has been steady and it is not just that, it is his lifestyle, the way he treats other people, his humility as a person, even after all the things he has done in the game. It is great for me to have him, Don Cowie, Christophe Berra and Steven Naismith in the dressing room as examples to the young players. We will continue this model of developing young players and we will also, at the same time, have experienced players coming in, who maybe will only play 20 games a season but have reached a level in their career where they have been playing at a high level and they are still capable and their brains are still capable of playing at that high level.
“At the same time, even if they don’t speak to the kids, the very nature of who they are and what they have been through is a great example to the young players. But Aaron, Don, Christophe and Steven are fantastic with the young boys. I walked past the video analysis room and Aaron was in there with young Chris Hamilton. I put the onus on the kids to ask. Chris is 16 and he’s going into a dressing room with Aaron, who has played hundreds of games in the English Premier League.
“If it was me I’d be asking every question I could think of. I see Aaron spending time with them, Don spending time with them and Naisy doing the same. And as much as I can talk to them about things, I am still the coach or the teacher, or however you want to put it. One thing for sure is we’ll continue to sign players like Aaron and Christophe because I think their value on the field is great but off the field is immeasurable.”