Hearts reach decision on more new signings plus Craig Halkett news for Istanbul Basaksehir tie
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson is not planning any further new signings after four new arrivals inside the last two weeks.
Ahead of Thursday’s opening Europa Conference League tie against Istanbul Basaksehir at Tynecastle Park, Neilson admitted no more new recruits are likely after midfielder Orestis Kiomourtzoglou, striker Stephen Humphrys, goalkeeper Zander Clark and forward Robert Snodgrass all arrived in the last fortnight.
Kiomourtzoglou was still awaiting a UK visa as of Wednesday afternoon and can’t make his debut until it arrives, while Snodgrass was brought in after UEFA’s registration deadline for the group phase. Humphrys and Clark are both available but Neilson reported that Hearts defender Craig Halkett is not expected to play against the Turks due to a hamstring issue. Kye Rowles, Beni Baningime, Liam Boyce remain out with longer-term injuries.
“Halkett is still an issue and won't make the game but other than that everyone is available,” confirmed Neilson, who explained the process of signing Snodgrass until the end of the season.
“We were looking to bring someone in with a bit of quality in the forward areas. The opportunity came up a couple of days ago so I had a good chat with him. I think he'll be a real good addition to the squad because he knows the league and he's got experience. He missed the deadline for European games but that probably suits him more, with the age he's at, that he can just prepare week-to-week.”
Neilson added that Hearts signing business is complete for now. “That'll be us done at the moment. I'm pleased with the squad,” he said. “We've improved it and we've increased the numbers in the last couple of days with Zander Clark, Stephen Humprys and Snodgrass. It gives us more of a squad to push forward with.”
Basaksehir are unbeaten in all competitions since March and present a stern test for Hearts. "It's about pitting ourselves against some top teams in Europe, international players who have played for huge clubs,” said Neilson.
“Some guys there have played for Milan and other teams in Europe. It's a chance for our players to see where they are at that level. We have a lot of young guys and hopefully they will recognise that they can play at that level. The home game against Zurich cleared a lot of doubts for the players about 'can they perform at that level?'. They proved they can.”
He backed his players fully against the Turks and stressed there is no reason for Hearts to enter Group A with any inferiority complex. “There's none of that. We’ve earned the right to be here, we've shown we can do it. We were consistent in the league last season and we deserve to be here but we have to prove it every time we play in these competitions.
“We're sitting fourth in the league. We've had some tough games to start with, including FC Zurich, the Swiss champions. The last couple of games have been very disappointing [defeats against Kilmarnock and Livingston] but we've added to the squad and we're getting guys back from injury.
“We've lost two games in four days so if that's a slump I'll take that every now and again. We're sitting in a good position. We're playing group-stage European football and we're fourth in the league. We've got to look at the positives. Yes, we'd like to win every game but it's not going to happen where we are at the moment so we have to take the next game as it comes.”