Ian Cathro admits Hearts need to sign another striker as club officials prepare to meet the Northern Ireland forward Kyle Lafferty for talks today.
Lafferty will sit down with director of football Craig Levein to discuss a possible move to Tynecastle following his release by Norwich City last month. However, Ipswich Town are one of seven other clubs in England and abroad also pursuing the 29-year-old’s signature.
Hearts want him to lead their attack next season but would need to offer a huge deal and make him one of their highest-paid players.
Cathro told the Evening News that strengthening his forward line remains a priority despite the recent arrival of Cole Stockton from Tranmere Rovers.
“It’s an area we’re still looking at. We’re looking at a couple of different parts of the team where we feel we need more strength and different options,” said the Hearts head coach.
“We’ve still got some balancing to do, which we are doing. It’s just going to be a case of being patient and acting professionally. We’ll do what we can do at the right time.”
Lafferty is interested in the prospect of moving back to Scotland after failing to establish himself during three seasons at Norwich.
He spent four years with Rangers between 2008 and 2012 and had spells with Sion in Switzerland and Palermo in Italy before arriving at Carrow Road in June 2014.
He was released at the end of his three-year contract having struggled to hold down a regular first-team place. Norwich loaned him out to the Turkish club Rizespor and to Birmingham City during his time in East Anglia.
Any move to Edinburgh would depend heavily on Lafferty’s salary expectations. More money will be on offer in England and abroad for a forward who has 20 goals in 61 appearances for Northern Ireland – making him their second top scorer of all time behind David Healy.
Lafferty will meet Hearts officials this afternoon to gain a feel for the club before deciding whether to take things further. He is already well acquainted with the Tynecastle assistant coach, Austin MacPhee, who is also part of the Northern Ireland coaching staff.
MacPhee’s relationship with Lafferty could be a key factor if discussions are to progress beyond today’s meeting.
Bringing the player to Edinburgh would be regarded as a genuine coup but, with such strong competition, much will also depend on what kind of deal Hearts can offer Lafferty. Ipswich are keen to take him to Portman Road, whilst the Azerbaijan champions Qarabag have also declared an interest.