Hearts offer new contract as club reveal long-term plan for Connor Smith's future
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The 20-year-old’s existing deal expires in May and he has been offered an extension to keep him at Tynecastle Park next year. Manager Robbie Neilson has a long-term development plan in mind for Smith, who made his Scotland Under-21 debut last week against Turkey.
He is currently on loan at Queen’s Park having made 25 appearances for the League One side so far this season.
“I’m delighted for Connor. He has done really well at Queen’s Park, it’s been a good loan move for him,” Neilson told the Evening News. “The plan is to bring him back in with us in the summer. We will see where he is regarding the first team and he will be involved in the pre-season games.
“It will then be a case of whether he is ready to come in and join the squad regularly or if we look to put him out on loan maybe to a Championship team for six months and then bring him back in with us.
“I think Connor is a player with a big future here. My plan for him is: When he comes into the first-team squad, I want him to be ready to stay in. I don’t want him coming in and playing one game and then a month later playing another game.
“When he’s ready, I think he’s got the quality to come in and be a regular. His contract is up in the summer so we have offered him a new deal. We are just going back and forward a wee bit with the agent but I’d expect it to get done.”
Smith is a Riccarton youth academy graduate and Neilson hopes more players can make the transition from under-18s to first-team level. “That step up is quite high now. We obviously don’t have a reserve league so we have to put younger players out on loan,” he added.
“Connor has gone to Queen’s Park, played regularly and played well. The next step for him is whether he is ready to come in and be a regular here, or does he need another six months somewhere? We will decide that over the summer.”