Hearts boss Robbie Neilson provides update on Kye Rowles signing and explains Australia defender's potential

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson has explained what’s involved to complete the signing of Australia defender Kye Rowles and what he’s been told about the player’s potential.

The 23-year-old, who made his first competitive appearance for the Socceroos during their crucial 2-1 World Cup play-off victory over United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, has agreed a deal to move to Edinburgh from Central Coast Mariners.

All that remains is for the player to be awarded a visa permitting him to play in Scotland.

The Jambos boss told the Scarves Around the Funnel podcast: "We've agreed the contract, we've signed the player. It just needs to get through the GDE now which is the panel that allows us to get the visa to get him in.

“It's not quite done but we're very hopeful we'll get it over the line.”

Hearts have been defensive reinforcements a priority following the departure of John Souttar to Rangers, Brighton’s decision to keep Alex Cochrane and Taylor Moore’s return to Bristol City. Neilson has described Rowles as a ball-playing left-sided centre-back and is “really excited” about working with him.

He added: "Really, really good defender. Athletic, young, good on the ball. Left sided as well, that gives us a bit of balance. So I think he'll do very, very well for us. I'm really excited about getting him over.

“Having spoken to Nick Montgomery, his coach over there who is a friend of a friend, he thinks he can play down in England, Championship and potentially Premiership.

Former Hibs player Jackson Irvine celebrates with new Hearts defender Kye Rowles after Australia's victory in the World Cup play-off semi final against United Arab Emirates and in Qatar. Picture: Mohamed Farag/Getty

“If we can get a guy like that in, I think he'll do very well for us. I'm excited to see what he brings to the group."

As his side gears up for European football next season, Neilson highlighted the importance of this summer's transfer window, which opens on Friday, in order to strengthen the squad in all areas.

“I think there's a number of areas," he added. "First of all defensively. We've lost John Souttar who was one of our main players, so we need to recruit in that area.

“To be honest, all over the pitch we have to continue to improve. We had some good performances this year and good players.

Australia goalkeeper Mathew Ryan celebrates, left to right, with teammates defender Bailey Wright, defender Kye Rowles and midfielder Jackson Irvine after winning the FIFA World Cup 2022 play-off qualifier against United Arab Emirates in Qatar. Picture: Karim Jaafar //Getty

“One of the key things was trying to re-sign the guys that were out of contract and adding quality to that.

“There's still room for improvement. We need to add quality in all areas and quantity as well.”

Hearts have signed Livingston winger Alan Forrest on a free transfer and have started talks with 19-year-old Dundee United defender Lewis Neilson, while midfielder Peter Haring this week sign a new one-year contract.

They are also interested in signing Scotland striker Lawrence Shankland from Beerschot, but the transfer fee the Belgians would demand is a potential obstacle.

Hearts have also offered former Doncaster Rovers defender Joe Wright an offer to train at Riccarton and prove his fitness after a previous deal to sign him collapsed.

The club had agreed terms with the 26-year-old centre-back last May before he suffered knee and ankle damage in Doncaster’s final game of the 2020/21 season against Peterborough United.