Robbie Neilson expects to see fit-again Hearts youngster Angus Beith knocking on the door of the first team in the coming months.
After giving the 19-year-old midfielder his only appearance to date in a 4-1 Petrofac Cup defeat by Livingston 16 months ago, the head coach had hoped to see the highly-rated midfielder feature more prominently this season.
Neilson planned to take Beith on the club’s pre-season trip to Ireland in July before the player was forced to undergo hip surgery in the summer, which resulted in him being sidelined until three weeks ago.
Having made a positive contribution since returning to action for the development team over the past few weeks, Neilson is hoping to see Beith become a regular in the first-team squad in the near future.
“Angus is a good player and I was hoping he would push on this year,” the head coach said. said. “He had an issue with his hip last year and we hoped the close season would clear it up but it’s disappointing that the injury has put him back a bit. His loan spell at Stirling Albion really helped him last year and he’s becoming more mature. He’s starting to get back to his form again and I expect him to start pushing to get into the first-team squad.”
Beith’s contract expires this summer, but Neilson assured the teenager he still has plenty time to prove he is worthy of an extension.
“It’s important with young boys that you keep a close eye on them and see where they are in terms of their progress,” he said. “We won’t just extend contracts for the sake of it, the boys have got to prove they’re able to play at this level or that they have potential to play at this level. I think Angus has that potential but having been out for quite a long period, it’s important that he gets back to the level we think he can get to.”
Neilson is encouraged by the calibre of young players pushing for first-team involvement, with Dario Zanatta, Liam Smith and Robbie Buchanan also prominent in the management’s thoughts ahead of an arduous winter schedule for Hearts.
“The run of games we’ve got over the next month or so will be a test because we don’t have a big squad with [Jamie] Walker and [Soufian] El Hassnaoui out and [Alim] Ozturk still coming back from injury,” said Neilson. “We’ve got a lot of good young kids coming through though. Zanatta’s doing really well, Beith is performing really well and Buchanan’s back from Cowdenbeath and was part of the squad last week. It’s a good opportunity when the more senior players are out to try and get themselves on to the bench and then push for a start.”
Meanwhile, Hearts’ Scottish Cup fourth-round match at home to Aberdeen will be televised live on BBC Scotland, with a 5.30pm kick-off on Saturday, January 9.
The Jambos also face the Dons this Saturday in a 12.30pm kick-off at Pittodrie and the club have released advice for supporters making the journey north at a time when the Forth Road Bridge is closed for repairs. Those travelling by bus or car are urged to check www.trafficscotland.org before they travel in order to plan their route, while there are three trains leaving Edinburgh Waverley – 7.28am, 8.29am, 9.29am – which will get supporters into the Granite City in time for the Premiership’s second v third showdown. The Hearts squad will travel north on Friday.