Craig Levein will assess Jack Hamilton’s situation over the summer as he is wary of the highly-regarded back-up goalkeeper stagnating at Hearts.
The 24-year-old became the club’s first-choice last season and also forced his way into the Scotland squad, but he has endured a frustrating campaign this time round as understudy to Jon McLaughlin after the club decided to go with a more senior keeper. His appearance in Sunday’s 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock was his first since August.
Levein is currently looking for an experienced replacement for McLaughlin, who looks set to return to England after an impressive campaign in Edinburgh, but the manager is aware of the need to ensure Hamilton gets a chance to accelerate his development after such a barren season. That may involve the homegrown keeper being allowed to go on loan in order to get game time.
“Jack’s a good goalkeeper,” said Levein. “That’s the problem with having a good second goalkeeper who is young. He needs to play, and that’s the challenge. He has another two years left on his contract and it’s about what we do with him next season. It’s great for me to have a back-up like that but he needs to play, so I need to look at the situation next season. I get that he wants to play more often, which I understand. We’ll see what happens.”
St Johnstone have been credited with an interest in signing Hamilton, but the goalkeeper insists he is determined to remain at Tynecastle and try and regain his place. “I’ve still got two years left at Hearts and I want to get back in the team,” he said. “If Jon does move on – and I don’t know what he intends to do – then I definitely feel ready to come in and play every week and I would love to do that.
“Obviously, it’s been difficult for me but Jon has been in fantastic form and only one goalie can play. That’s football. It’s just about me getting prepared over the summer and being ready to come back in next season.”
Hamilton made several impressive saves at Rugby Park on Sunday and was pleased with his performance in what was his first appearance since a 2-1 defeat away to Motherwell just before McLaughlin arrived in August. “It was disappointing to lose the game but it was brilliant for me just to get back on the field again, and to chip in with a couple of saves was good because that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “I was happy with my performance.
“Jon has come in and done really well, which has been tough for me. It’s been about taking a step back, watching him and seeing what I can learn from him to try and make myself better. Having done that, hopefully I can kick on in the future now.”