Hearts transfer window: Striker waiting game, right-back hunt, new faces needed

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With the UK transfer window opening today, we look at the lay of the land for Hearts going into their summer.

Where should they be looking to strengthen?

There will be changes throughout the team as Steven Naismith and his new management team will want to put their own stamp on things.

Another right-back is a must following the departure of Michael Smith, while Josh Ginnelly will need to be replaced if he leaves. More options who can play up front or on the wing will be required, while it wouldn’t hurt to recruit a centre midfielder who can score goals.

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The new Hearts management team will be looking to put their own stamp on the squadThe new Hearts management team will be looking to put their own stamp on the squad
The new Hearts management team will be looking to put their own stamp on the squad

Another centre-back will be needed, preferably one who is dominant in the air if Craig Halkett doesn’t return to fitness within the first month of the new campaign.

A goalkeeper might be necessary if Craig Gordon is not fully recovered from his double leg-break in time to start the new campaign. Ross Stewart has gone, leaving Zander Clark and the inexperienced Harry Stone as the first-team keepers.

A creative attacking midfielder should also be high on Naismith’s priority list this summer. There is also another winger required to replace Gary Mackay-Steven.

Who have Hearts been linked with?

Lawrence Shankland and Josh Ginnelly proved to be a fruitful partnership for Hearts. Will they both be in maroon next season?Lawrence Shankland and Josh Ginnelly proved to be a fruitful partnership for Hearts. Will they both be in maroon next season?
Lawrence Shankland and Josh Ginnelly proved to be a fruitful partnership for Hearts. Will they both be in maroon next season?

There haven’t been a lot of rumours about potential targets due to the delay in appointing a new management team, but sporting director Joe Savage will have been working away on options in the background.

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Carlisle defender Morgan Feeney has been linked to both Hearts and Hibs, but Naismith is understood not to be interested in him. Callum Paterson last week ended speculation inking him with a return to Hearts after signing a new contract with Sheffield Wednesday.

Who is still out of contract?

Josh Ginnelly, Connor Smith and Euan Henderson are all on deals which are currently due to expire this summer.

Ginnelly is undoubtedly the player demanding the most attention. After being converted from a winger to a striker, the Englishman bagged 13 goals and built a terrific partnership with Lawrence Shankland at the head of the attack. He would be a very difficult player to replace should he leave for free.

A two-year deal has been offered to Smith, who spent the second half of the campaign on loan at Hamilton Accies. There is no word yet on Henderson’s future after an unproductive spell at Queen’s Park.

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Who is likely to be sold?

There have been reports about interest in Lawrence Shankland in the recent past, most notably from Rangers, though nothing concrete. He’s about to turn 28, will be looked upon as already in his prime, has another two years on his contract, and has a disappointing spell in the Belgian top flight in the not-so-distant past, so suitors may be put off from spending the type of money Hearts would demand to part ways with their best player.

Of other players who could potentially be sold on, the Aussies are likelier to court interest from the Middle East and Far East due to the proximity to home and where the Socceroos play the majority of their international matches, so perhaps there’ll be offers for the likes of Kye Rowles, Cammy Devlin or Nathaniel Atkinson.

Hearts may also look to move on 2022 summer signings who didn’t quite live up to expectations, such as Jorge Grant, Orestis Kiomourtzoglou or Alan Forrest.

Who has left the club?

Hearts announced in late May that Ross Stewart, Gary Mackay-Steven and long-time full-back Michael Smith would all be leaving upon the expiration of their contracts. Smith has been with Hearts since the summer of 2017 and exits having made over 200 first-team appearances.

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Robert Snodgrass was also also out of contract and left before the season finished. The former Scottish international was told he wouldn’t play any further part after Steven Naismith replaced Robbie Neilson as manager.

It was announced in February that youngsters Arron Darge, Aidan Denholm, Leo Watson, Cammy Logan and Scott McGill would all be getting released at the end of their deals. However, a u-turn was made on Denholm, who signed a new one-year deal last month.

What about the loanees?

Stephen Humphrys was sent back to Wigan Athletic before the end of the campaign amid problems with his wages being paid by the parent club. Garang Kuol and James Hill have returned to Newcastle United and Bournemouth, respectively.

If any player is likely to come back for another campaign, Hill would probably be at the top of the list. The England under-21 international struggled at times under Neilson but really came on to a game as the campaign drew to a close.

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However, there has been no talk from Hearts in terms of trying to get him for another season. Humphrys was a popular player earlier in the year, though his form cooled off.

When are the first-team back?

Hearts players will report back to Riccarton in a couple of weeks to begin their pre-season preparations. The squad have been told to return to their training base on June 27, with a friendly lined up against Dunfermline on July 9. Other games have yet to be announced, but the B team have matches arranged.

The new Scottish Premiership campaign is due to kick off on the weekend of August 5/6. Hearts will not take part in the Viaplay Cup group phase in July because they have qualified for Europe.

The Edinburgh club will play in the third qualifying round of the Europa Conference League on August 10 and 17.

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What did last year’s summer window look like?

Eight players arrived in total, while another two were added after the window closed, as Hearts sought to beef out a squad which was competing at both home and abroad and already dealing with injury issues throughout the team.

Shankland was a tremendous success, netting 28 goals across the campaign, but while none of the other additions could be counted as dismal signings, only Alex Cochrane and Zander Clark showed real consistency over a sustained period.

What 2024 contracts require the most attention?

All of the players about to enter the final 12 months of their existing deals have caveats around them.

If Craig Halkett and Beni Baningime can return to their best quickly then there would be concerns over them leaving for nothing, but both are coming off ACL tears and in Halkett’s case there’s no idea yet when exactly he’ll return.

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Liam Boyce and Craig Gordon, both over 30, also suffered huge injuries in 2022/23. Cammy Devlin will perhaps present the biggest decision this summer. Based on his play of the last couple of seasons, Hearts would likely wait and see what is form is like over the first couple of months, but if he takes his play up a level this could come back to bite them.

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