Hearts boss Robbie Neilson explains loan decision over young stars
Hearts boss Robbie Neilson has admitted he has a decision to make over the future of some of the club’s brightest talents.
The likes of Scott McGill, Connor Smith, Aidan Denholm and Leo Watson have been involved during pre-season and the Premier Sports Cup matches.
In the 2-0 defeat to Sunderland at Tynecastle Park on Saturday McGill and Smith played in unfamiliar roles where they impressed. But rather than part of a plan to convert them, it was about getting them game time.
When it comes down to the decision to keep them part of the Hearts first-team squad or send them on loan, minutes on the field will be the deciding factor with Neilson wanting to operate with a squad of between 22 and 24.
“The positions they are in we've got some players there,” he said. “We just felt that the most important thing for them is to get them on the pitch in a first team game and just feel the environment and see the level they need to get to.
“Smith at wing-back and McGill at right centre-half. I thought they both did really well. They are starting to mature as players, get a bit more physicality, coming in this summer has helped them. It's just a case of carrying it on.
“The decision we have is do you keep them in and they play four games or do you put them out on loan and they play 40 games.
“We are leaning towards putting them out on loan to get them game experience and hopefully bring them back into the group ready to play.”
Even if players do leave on a temporary basis, Neilson is keen that they stay within the first-team environment.
“These guys will continue to train with the first team even if they do go out on loan,” he said. “Like Harry Stone who is at Partick [Thistle] at the moment.
"Harry trains with Partick Thursday, Friday and hopefully plays on Saturday and then the rest of the time he is with us.
"It's important he is still part of the club, still develop here with the goalkeeping coach and Craig Gordon. It will be the same for the other guys.”