HEARTS hope recent international call-ups can help entice new players to Tynecastle over the coming months.
Callum Paterson and Arnaud Djoum won their first competitive caps for Scotland and Cameroon respectively last week, and head coach Robbie Neilson now wants to capitalise on the exposure.
He believes the prospect of international recognition can convince future signing targets to choose Hearts. While Paterson played in Scotland’s World Cup qualifying win in Malta, Djoum helped Cameroon beat Gambia in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. Full-back Faycal Rherras was also in the Morocco squad but did not play against Sao Tome and Principe.
With Jack Hamilton and Tony Watt joining Paterson in the Scotland squad, Hearts’ international contingent is steadily growing. “We can use our internationals as an example when trying to sign players,” insisted Neilson. “We’ve brought in Arnaud, who is now a Cameroon international, and Rherras has come in and is playing for Morocco. It shows if you come here and do well then you get the chance to progress. I’m really pleased for them.
“I thought Callum did well, a couple of good deliveries and looked good going forward. He’s still got a bit of development to do but keeping a guy like Alan Hutton out of the team, you can see what the manager thinks of him.”
Neilson admitted Paterson wants to move to England when his Hearts contract expires at the end of the season. Tynecastle officials rejected three bids from Wigan Athletic before the summer transfer window closed.
According to the head coach, the full-back is ready for a move to a club in the upper echelons of the English Championship, and possibly even the Premier League.
“Callum’s form from now until January or the end of the season will dictate what level in England he goes in at. He’s definitely ready for the Championship but if he really pushes himself then maybe lower end of the English Premier League.
“Whether he can get there is difficult to say because they don’t really recruit from up here but he’s definitely top end of the Championship. It all depends how he progresses this year. If he is consistently doing well for us and Scotland, then he can make that step.
“He’s still a young kid who is developing. Even to go from Scotland to a top-end Championship team is a massive jump but he’s more than comfortable doing that. Whether he can then go and jump again straight away or has to do a year or two in the Championship is down to form.”
Asked about the prospects of Paterson extending his contract and staying with Hearts, Neilson replied: “We’ll keep chatting with Callum but he wants to go and play in England and you have to respect that.
“He’s been great for Hearts. He’s played 150-odd games and he’s at a stage where he wants to go south of the border. We’ll get a substantial compensation fee for him so we have to accept that as well.
“His Scotland cap reinforced why we wanted to keep him. Once you get a competitive cap, it’s totally different from a friendly game. In a friendly game, a lot of players pull out and aren’t interested - it’s a trial basis for a lot of players. Once you get into that competitive fixture, you’re the best right-back that Scotland’s got at the moment. That’s what he is.”