James Keatings free to leave Hearts in summer

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HEARTS will let James Keatings leave for free this summer should he decide he needs a regular starting place next season. The striker has been told he is wanted at Tynecastle but will not play every week in the Premiership. If he wants to go, the club will not stand in his way.

Keatings is midway through a two-year contract and has scored 11 goals from 18 starts this season. He has spent much of the campaign on the substitutes’ bench and is keen to command a regular place in the starting line-up. Hearts see him more as a squad player for next year’s Premiership campaign.

James Keatings has found first-team football hard to come by recently. Pic: SNS

James Keatings has found first-team football hard to come by recently. Pic: SNS

The 23-year-old must now decide whether he sees his future at Tynecastle. His goals have made him popular with supporters since he arrived from Hamilton Academical and the Hearts management team would like to keep him in their squad. However, should Keatings ask to go, he will be released from his contract.

Hearts have already told English left-back Adam Eckersley he will not be granted a new deal. He will leave when the campaign ends next month. Dutch striker Genero Zeefuik is also due to return to FC Groningen at the same time as his loan agreement expires.

The Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson and director of football Craig Levein are embarking on a rebuilding plan for next season. They hope to sign up to five new players to help cement a place in the Premiership’s top six.

Keatings scored for Hearts Under-20s last night in their 2-1 defeat at home to Falkirk. Keatings headed the Jambos in front, but Thomas Grant equalised and a Ryan Grant 20-yard free-kick won it for the Bairns.

The Hearts U-20s are in action again this Thursday against Dunfermline at East End Park. The match kicks off at 2pm.