Hearts won't offer any guarantees over 29-man first-team squad

Hearts players can expect squad rotation to continue as manager Robbie Neilson tries to keep a 29-man first-team pool happy between now and summer.

The club’s already-sizeable senior group increased during the January transfer window with defender James Hill arriving alongside forwards Garang Kuol and Yutaro Oda. Injuries have sidelined some more experienced figures but Neilson is still managing a pool of more than 20 players each day at training, plus devoting time to keeping others’ spirits up during their recovery.

He admitted sympathy with midfielders like Jorge Grant and Orestis Kiomourtzoglou, who have struggled for game time recently as a result. Grant made an impact after coming on during the second half of Saturday’s 3-1 win against Dundee United at Tynecastle. However, Kiomourtzoglou remained an unused substitute along with defender Nathaniel Atkinson and Oda.

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Neilson told the Evening News that starting places at Hearts must be earned. Even then, he plans to keep rotating to some extent as the Edinburgh club mount a dual challenge for the Scottish Cup and third place in the Premiership. “Nobody is guaranteed a starting position here. You are at a big football club. When you come on in a game, you’ve got to make an impact. When you train every day, you’ve got to make an impact,” he said.

“Jorge has been doing that. He’s been training very well. He’s been patient and he will be frustrated, as everyone is when they aren’t playing. When you’re playing at a big football club there is a big squad and there will be rotation. Andy Halliday came in on Saturday, as did Stephen Kingsley, Alex Cochrane dropped out of the starting line-up.

“It’s about being here and performing at the best level you can and, to be fair, Jorge has done that. I thought he came on against United and showed some good movement and good passing.

“Kio will probably be the most disappointed. He came on against Rangers at half-time last Wednesday and did exceptionally well. He settled the game for us, got forward and had some good switches of play – then he didn’t get on at the weekend. There will be a few of them like that. They just have to keep working and wait for that opportunity to come.”

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Hearts’ next match is this Friday night at Hamilton Academical in the Scottish Cup fifth round.

Hearts defender Alex Cochrane replaces Kye Rowles against Dundee United on Saturday.Hearts defender Alex Cochrane replaces Kye Rowles against Dundee United on Saturday.
Hearts defender Alex Cochrane replaces Kye Rowles against Dundee United on Saturday.