James Keatings has vowed to stay at Hearts and fight for a first-team place next season.
Despite being told he won’t be first-choice striker and can leave Tynecastle if he wishes, the 23-year-old is desperate to stay and make an impact in the Scottish Premiership.
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has told Keatings he wants him to stay, but can’t guarantee him a regular starting place. The Edinburgh club are willing to let the player leave for free. However, Keatings stressed today that he wants to fight his way into the team and make a name for himself next season.
He signed a two-year contract upon joining Hearts from Hamilton last year and wants to experience the Scottish Premiership.
“I’m a Hearts player. I’ve still got another year left on my contract,” said Keatings. “They want to keep me. The gaffer said there will be competition for places. I wouldn’t say anybody is No.1 at any club but there will be places to be fought for.
“I’ve played for two years in the Championship and I’ve scored goals. I’d say I’ve proved myself at this level. I want to go to the next level and give myself the best chance of proving myself there.
“I’m a fighter so if I’m here then I’m going to fight for my place. I’m a Hearts player and I’ve still got a year left on my contract. Until that finishes, or unless anything else happens, I’m going to play for Hearts.”
Keatings came on as a substitute in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Cowdenbeath and admitted he is itching to start more often.
“It’s frustrating because you want to be playing every week. Competition for places is really high here at Hearts,” he added. “The manager picks the team he thinks is going to win each week. I’ve been on the bench, but I’m going to give 100 per cent when he puts me on and hopefully get the goals.”