Hearts transfers: State of play as the summer window officially opens
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Jamie Brandon (Livingston), Chris Hamilton (Dunfermline Athletic), John Souttar (Rangers), Jamie Walker (Bradford City, loan made permanent), Alex Cochrane (Brighton & Hove Albion, end of loan), Taylor Moore (Bristol City, end of loan), Ellis Simms (Everton, end of loan), Ben Woodburn (Liverpool, end of loan), Mihai Popescu.
There isn’t too much to fret over here. John Souttar will be a big loss and supporters who adopted the “didn’t fancy him anyway” attitude when he signed a pre-contract with Rangers will soon realise his true value to the team unless a top player is recruited to replace him.
Ellis Simms made a big impact in the second half of the season but Hearts will be looking to recruit a couple of attackers to fill his void. Supporters are eager for his return, though Everton will know his value will rise further if he performs in the English Championship due to the overinflated market down south.
It would have been nice to keep Alex Cochrane but his re-signing with Brighton isn’t a disaster. The versatile defender was solid whenever he played last term and with a long-term future at Brighton unlikely, even if he recently got signed to a new one-year deal, he may still return at some point.
The news Peter Haring is staying for another season was a welcomed boost earlier this week.
Signings so far
Alan Forrest (Livingston), Kye Rowles (Central Coast Mariners), Lewis Neilson (Dundee United)
After testing the patience of the support last season with a number of signings made later in the window – Woodburn, Moore, Beni Baningime, Cammy Devlin and Barrie McKay were all acquired after the Premier Sports Cup group campaign – Hearts appear to be in the mood to get things done early this campaign.
Forrest is a right-footed winger who likes to play from the left and attack the goal. He adds an option to the front three and should be a good foil for McKay if Neilson chooses to shift one of them to the other flank.
Rowles comes with a burgeoning pedigree having just played his first two games for Australia following an impressive couple of seasons at Central Coast Mariners. His lack of aerial ability is a little bit of a concern in the Scottish top flight, but he is another composed defender in possession who is said to have excellent anticipation skills.
Neilson is a bit more of an unknown having been a reserve player at Dundee United over the last couple of seasons. But at 19 years of age, and having arrived on a free transfer, he represents a gamble worth taking as a youngster with plenty of potential.
Crucially, all three can operate in more than one position and offer some real in-game flexibility for the manager.
On the radar
Connor Ronan is said to be a target for the Jambos. The Wolves midfielder was excellent on loan for St Mirren last season, including scoring a thunderous effort in his side’s 4-2 Scottish Cup quarter-final defeat at Tynecastle. He would give Hearts something they missed last campaign, which is a central midfielder capable of controlling games but one who also provides a potent goal threat.
It is also believed Hearts are monitoring the situation regarding Lawrence Shankland, whose move to Beerschot in Belgium hasn’t yet gone according to plan. Hearts boss Neilson worked with the Scotland international at Dundee United and his goalscoring touch could thrive in an attacking side after being starved of service in his final campaign at Tannadice.
What do they need?
A stronger back-up to goalkeeper Craig Gordon wouldn’t go amiss, though Hearts could again gamble on their captain staying injury free across the course of the season once again and spend their money elsewhere. Ross Stewart, who played twice in reserve last term, is under contract for another year.
A replacement for Souttar is still probably needed, even with the signings of Rowles and Neilson. Toby Sibbick didn’t look particularly comfortable when asked to play in the position of his soon-to-be-former team-mate last term. He certainly has a future at Tynecastle and often impressed in the centre of the back three, but that’s Craig Halkett’s post. Going with Sibbick as the starter and Neilson as the back-up on the right of the back three would represent a significant gamble.
A couple of different options up front are required. Hearts only went with two out-and-out strikers across the whole of last term and that could present a problem in the event of medium to long-term injury, as it did when Liam Boyce went down before Christmas and Armand Gnanduillet was no longer trusted to lead the line.
Another option or two at attacking midfield would also be of benefit. None of Woodburn, Gary Mackay-Steven, Josh Ginnelly or Aaron McEneff did enough to make themselves regulars in the starting XI last term and management should be looking for an upgrade.
Ross Stewart, Cammy Logan, Michael Smith, Loic Damour, Aidan Denholm, Josh Ginnelly, Peter Haring, Gary Mackay-Steven, Aaron McEneff, Scott McGill, Finlay Pollock, Connor Smith, Liam Boyce, Euan Henderson, Mackenzie Kirk, Murray Thomas
Again, there isn’t too much here to be worried about. Fans may have liked Haring to sign a longer deal when penning his extension, but there is an option for another year. Boyce and Smith are important members of the first-team but each are in their 30s and unlikely to draw much interest from elsewhere should Hearts want to keep them. The rest are either youngsters, squad players or a French midfielder inexplicably signed to four-year deal in 2018.