Hearts will be forced into the January transfer market for a centre-back if they can’t extend Jimmy Dunne’s loan agreement with Burnley.
Manager Craig Levein expected Czech forward David Vanecek to be the only arrival at Tynecastle Park next month, but defender Clevid Dikamona’s thigh problem has forced his hand.
The Congolese has joined fellow centre-backs Dunne and John Souttar on the injury list and will be out until the end of January, leaving Hearts short in that area. Full-back Michael Smith is currently deputising as captain Christophe Berra’s partner.
Levein will hold talks with the Burnley manager Sean Dyche soon after New Year in the hope that Dunne can return to Tynecastle Park until the end of the season.
His loan deal is due to expire on January 7 but he should be close to full fitness after the winter break. If an extension is not possible, Hearts will then move to recruit another centre-back.
“I’ve to phone Sean Dyche in early January to find out if we can keep Jimmy. We also have Aaron Hughes, who is getting to the tail end of his career.
“Clevid is out, John Souttar is recovering well but he is still going to be absent for a little while.
“With all of them missing, I’ve got to do something,” Levein told the Evening News.
“I hadn’t planned on bringing someone else in. In recent games I’ve had to take Peter Haring out of midfield to play him in defence. Mick Smith has done a good job playing centre-back but he is essentially a full-back.
“We will get by until the break and then I’ve got to look at the centre-back position because I feel I’ve got to do something.
“I’m expecting to get John and Clevid back at the end of January. If we lose Jimmy, I’ve made my decision that I need to get somebody in. We’ve got a few ideas.”