Hearts are prepared to let Brad McKay, Jason Holt and Scott Robinson leave before the summer, with McKay already in talks about a pre-contract move to St Johnstone.
The Edinburgh club will not stand in the way of players eager to play every week and cannot guarantee the above trio regular game time. McKay is out of contract at the end of the season and feels he needs to move to become a first-choice centre-back. He is hopeful of concluding a transfer to McDiarmid Park on a pre-contract agreement, meaning he would see the season out at Tynecastle before heading for Perth.
He joined Hearts from Edinburgh City aged 17 and managed 32 first-team appearances last year as the club were relegated from the Scottish Premiership. This season he finds himself behind Alim Ozturk and Danny Wilson for a place in central defence. He is frustrated by the lack of matches after making just nine senior appearances and is discussing a move with St Johnstone officials.
Holt is interesting Dundee United after a similarly frustrating campaign spent mostly on the substitutes’ bench. The midfielder’s contract also expires in a few months and he has interest from Scottish and English clubs to consider before deciding where his future lies. United manager Jackie McNamara may move for him before the end of the January transfer window.
Robinson is being monitored by Kilmarnock, Falkirk and clubs in America after falling completely out of the picture at Tynecastle. He has played only eight times at first-team level this season and did not even make the bench for the last two fixtures - the win at Dumbarton and last Friday’s abandoned game against Rangers at Ibrox.
Robbie Neilson, the Hearts head coach, admitted McKay, Holt and Robinson will not feature as often as they want at Tynecastle and said he has no qualms with them looking to move on. “These are guys who want to play every week and they aren’t playing every week here. It’s a decision they need to make, whether they want to stay or whether they want to move on somewhere else and play,” Neilson told the Evening News.
“These boys are good players but they want to play football every week. I speak to them all the time. In Holt’s case, it’s been going on for a while. He wants to play every week and he’s not going to. I think he wants to go and play somewhere week in and week out.
“I’d like to keep a hold of him but I’m not going to stand in somebody’s way who wants to play every Saturday when they aren’t doing that here. There will be interest in him and it’s the same with Robinson.
“Brad is similar. He played a lot of games last year but’s not played a lot this year. It’s a difficult decision for players. Do they stay with us and play ten to 15 games a season or do they go somewhere else and play 35 games a season? That’s a decision that really the player needs to make.”
Meanwhile, Hearts owner Ann Budge wants answers from the authorities after her club’s supporters were attacked leaving Ibrox Stadium on Friday night. Rival fans clashed inside and outside the ground following the abandonment, with Hearts supporters’ buses being hit by stones and bricks.
“We’ve had lots of things being checked and double checked,” said Budge. “Clearly there are some questions that we need to ask. Whether it is Hearts fans or any other fans, if you see that sort of thing happening then you need to be asking questions. We have to find out the facts as best we can and take it from there.”