Hearts boss to tackle left-back issue in January window

Craig Levein says Hearts have been working hard on defensive matters this week
Craig Levein says Hearts have been working hard on defensive matters this week
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Craig Levein acknowledged Hearts must defend better as he prepares to solve the club’s left-back problem during the January transfer window.

Riccarton coaching staff are working players hard on defensive issues this week after they conceded some cheap goals in recent matches.

The left-back area came under scrutiny again on Saturday as all of Rangers’ goals in their 3-1 win at BT Murrayfield came via that area of the pitch.

Rafal Grzelak has been unconvincing on the left side of defence so far this season, while Ashley Smith-Brown has been beset by injury since arriving on loan from Manchester City during the summer.

Levein intends to address the matter in January. “It’s something we’re working on. I couldn’t have foreseen the Smith-Brown situation. It’s just quite bizarre. It’s something I’ll be looking to look at in January, for sure,” the manager told the Evening News, adding that the next transfer window could be key.

“I’m still assessing a lot of things. January might be significant in that we might move a few on and bring a few in. As yet, I’m not absolutely clear on that.”

Levein maintained there were a lot of positives to take from the loss against Rangers. He explained that he is working with his defenders this week ahead of Sunday’s match with Kilmarnock.

“I wasn’t despondent after Saturday. There were a lot of good things in there. We probably need to defend a wee bit better and there’s something we can do about that,” he stated. We’ve been on the training ground and we’re doing some work on that issue. We aren’t where we want to be yet so we have to expect that there are going to be these moments.”

Meanwhile, John Souttar has been named in the Scotland Under-21 squad for European Championship qualifiers at McDiarmid Park against Latvia on November 10 and Ukraine four days later. Fellow Hearts defender Liam Smith, currently on loan at St Mirren, has also been called up.