Hearts reveal plans for Murray Thomas after debut at Celtic Park

After granting 18-year-old Murray Thomas a senior debut at Celtic Park, Robbie Neilson today outlined Hearts’ medium-term plan to develop the young forward.

Thomas replaced Barrie McKay in the dying minutes of Saturday's encounter as the Edinburgh club lost 4-1 despite taking an early lead through Ellis Simms.

The teenager scored and impressed for Hearts Under-18s in last month’s Scottish Youth Cup final, triggering a promotion to the first-team squad.

“He’s got loads of energy, he runs in behind and he did well in the Youth Cup final,” manager Neilson told the Evening News. “Makenzie Kirk has been involved a little bit but he is injured. We felt we could give Murray a chance for the last couple of minutes on Saturday.

“Don’t get me wrong, he is still a long, long way away from playing for this first team. The plan for him will be to come in for pre-season with the other younger ones and then potentially go out on loan.

“I think it will be another year or 18 months before he is near our squad. This is just where we are at the moment with injuries. We felt we could get him on the bench and chuck him in there.

“We are still waiting to see what happens with B teams or reserve teams. These kids like Murray need to play. Hopefully we can get some sort of league for them.

“It’s the same for every club. In the last couple of years, with Covid and no reserve league, it’s been really tough for these kids coming out of the youths.

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Hearts teenager Murray Thomas made his senior debut at Celtic Park.

“A lot of them missed a year or two of development because of Covid. Then, with Scotland not having any reserve league, these guys are like: ‘Where do we go?’

“You can put them out on loan but when they are on loan you have no control over whether they will play or not.

"Harry Stone went to Partick Thistle, played a wee bit and was in and out. We had to take him back and put him somewhere else [Albion Rovers] to get him game time. If we have reserves or a B team we can control how much game time he gets.

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“There are a few decent players coming through but they need developed.”

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