Hearts coach Robbie Neilson hopes to sign two new centre-backs this summer to replace the outgoing Danny Wilson and Brad McKay.
Plans to recruit one new defender have been altered by news that Wilson is invoking a contract clause to leave for free next month.
McKay signed a pre-contract agreement with St Johnstone in February and, with captain Wilson about to depart of his own accord, Neilson must find a new central defensive partner for Alim Ozturk. His only other centre-back is 18-year-old Jordan McGhee.
“We were looking to bring in a centre-half anyway, this just speeds things up a wee bit,” Neilson told the Evening News. “With Brad going as well as Danny, we’re looking to bring two in now to give us a bit of cover with Alim Ozturk in there.
“We were looking for one centre-back previously but now we’re looking for two. To be honest, I need at least one. I’ve got other positions I need to fill so if I can get another one in within the budget then I will. So, definitely one but possibly two.”
Neilson explained that Wilson’s decision to leave was based on the player’s desire for a fresh challenge after captaining Hearts back into the Scottish Premiership. The head coach said he understands the defender’s stance and stressed he has made a hugely positive contribution during two-and-a-half years at Tynecastle.
“Danny’s made a decision and we’ll back him for it. He’s been fantastic all season for us,” said Neilson. “He could’ve left last summer but decided to stay and help us get back where we wanted to be. I’ll always respect him for that. It’s a decision he’s made and it’s up to him. We need to move on as a football club.
“He just wants a new challenge, something different. Football is a short career and players look for something different at times. Danny has been at Hearts for a couple of years and he just felt he needed to try something else. I totally understand that.
“We have to remember the great times we’ve had here with Danny. We had some difficult times but he’s always been strong and led the team well. That’s the way I want it to be left, remembering the good that he did here.
“There haven’t been many championship-winning captains in this club’s history. The last one to win a league was 35 years ago and Danny Wilson is the next one. He’s had a great time here and he just feels it’s time for him to move on.”