Hearts plan new B team to compete with Rangers and Celtic if SPFL don't restart reserve league
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The Edinburgh club want to hone younger players with meaningful games every week and are determined to run a development team below their senior squad starting this summer.
Both Glasgow clubs have second-string sides in this season’s Lowland League, although that initial one-year arrangement has yet to be extended.
Hearts will participate in talks over the coming weeks about potentially resuming reserve football, which stopped back in March 2020 when the Covid 19 pandemic struck.
Starting a B team nearer the bottom of the pyramid is another option which will be given serious consideration. With new academy director Frankie McAvoy taking charge at Riccarton this week, there is even greater emphasis on producing more home-grown talent.
Manager Robbie Neilson explained that youth players must be developed to a high level to compete with the improved standard in Hearts’ first team.
“That comes with the territory as the club progresses,” he told the Evening News. “The players coming in need to be at a higher level. We have young boys on loan playing regularly in League One and League Two this year but we’d like them to be playing regularly in the Championship. Then they are ready to make that step up to the Premiership.
“One of the biggest issues is that there is no reserve league. It’s something we’re speaking about trying to rectify. There are discussions coming up about a reserve league [for next season]. I know some teams want it and some don’t. We are desperate for it.
“If that doesn’t happen, then we will probably look at trying to get some sort of B team going. The jump from under-18s to first team is just too big. There is talk of maybe introducing a couple of more B team slots. The B teams were only meant to be for a year so that would need to be continued if it’s going to happen.”
More than a dozen Hearts players who would be B team candidates are presently out on loan at various lower-league clubs. They include Jamie Brandon [Morton], Harry Stone [Albion Rovers], Euan Henderson [Alloa Athletic] and Scott McGill [Airdrie].
“We have loads. Some younger players are down in the Lowland League and doing well at the moment at clubs like Berwick and Gala Fairydean. Trying to get games week in and week out for them all is the difficulty we have at the moment,” admitted Neilson.
“Their development has got to be key for us. There is no reserve football but we have guys out playing regularly in League One and League Two and hopefully they will progress.
“I will look at them in the summer and bring a couple of them into the group, or maybe loan them out again at a higher level. We’re now at a level where they have to be very good to come in and play in our team.”