Joe Savage explains Hearts' signing plans and how the team can perform better with next season

Hearts sporting director Joe Savage has predicted a busy summer for the club as they strive to improve on last season’s impressive campaign.

Thursday, 9th June 2022, 12:04 pm

Savage wants to raise levels in the Premiership, Scottish Cup and Premier Sports Cup whilst coping with European group stage football. A number of new signings are in the pipeline to help facilitate those demands.

Winger Alan Forrest is already a Hearts player after leaving Livingston to sign a two-year contract. The Australian international defender Kye Rowles will follow from Central Coast Mariners, provided his UK work permit is approved.

The Edinburgh club also hope to sign 19-year-old defender Lewis Neilson from Dundee United. It remains to be seen if they will be required to pay a six-figure compensation sum to United after Neilson’s contract there expired.

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Savage explained how he and manager Robbie Neilson are working to strengthen the first-team squad at Riccarton. “I’m certainly going to be busy. There’s a lot we need to do and a lot of positions we need to fill,” he told the club’s website.

“Robbie and I are in constant dialogue about what we need. I would say we’ve got a few irons in the fire but nothing that’s imminent – nothing that we’re going to sign immediately.

“We are trying and we’ve got a few things to work on. We know where we need to strengthen but we’ve always stressed it’s quality over quantity. We need to make sure we get the right players in because we’ve obviously got the European campaign next year.

“We want to try and better the league campaign this season if we can, and we want to go further in the cup competitions and try to win them. We know we need to have a bigger squad but we need to have a better squad. That’s the aim and the ambition for us.”

Hearts sporting director Joe Savage.

Savage has high hopes for 25-year-old Forrest after watching him score seven goals and claim four assists with Livingston last season. “We’re absolutely delighted. He was one of the main targets we had once the season finished. We are always respectful of other clubs so we didn’t want to speak to Alan before his season finished.

“We asked Livingston for permission to speak with him, they granted it. We spoke to Alan, he’d been on holiday so, once he came back, we managed to get it all signed and sealed. We feel he is going to be a good player for us.

“We were really impressed with Alan when he played against us. His work-rate, his ability to run off the ball, his desire to score goals and hit the box. It’s something Robbie was really keen to bring into the team for this season.

“Alan caught our eye quite early on in the season so we thought: ‘Let's track him and continue to watch him.’ He got better and better. He got seven goals, which shows that he knows where the goal is, which is what we need. You need goals spread throughout the team.

“Once we knew Alan wasn’t going to be signing a new contract, we wanted to speak with him. We feel he is going to add a lot. He is proven in the Premiership, which I think is definitely required. We also think his game can go up again.

“I think you have to give credit to Livingston, they’re a good side. In my opinion they were a top-six side last season. They were very unfortunate not to make the top six. They have developed him really well and hopefully we can add more to that. We are delighted to have Alan on board.”

Rowles, who turns 24 later this month, is on international duty with Australia in the World Cup play-offs. He is due to head to Edinburgh once his paperwork is completed.

“Kye is someone we had been tracking from the days when we were watching Cammy Devlin and Nate [Atkinson],” said Savage. “We knew we needed a centre-back but we didn’t want to move on it last year because of what we were doing last season.

“We had kept an eye on Kye all the way through. As soon as we knew John Souttar would be leaving and Taylor Moore has obviously returned to Bristol City, Kye became the instant first choice for us to sign.

“I really like the way he plays and I really like the character. The Australian market has been really good for us so we feel, in Kye, we’ve got a good centre-back that we can develop. Hopefully he can kick on and improve us but we can also improve him.”

A new contract for midfielder Peter Haring is an essential piece of business, according to Savage. “Peter had been back in Austria for his holiday. I spoke with his agent, Peter spoke with the manager and they came back and said they are happy to sign for next season.

“It’s another one we’re delighted to keep. Peter was a big part of the season last season so we are really please he wanted to re-sign.”

Hearts Women are also improving their squad as coach Eva Olid prepares for the new campaign by signing Ciara Grant and Emma Brownlie from Rangers.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Savage. “First and foremost, it shows the ambition of the club and the attraction of the club. It shows the attraction of Eva and her coaching staff that we have managed to sign two players from the champions.

“Both of them are going to be really good players for us and will add such great value. We are delighted to get them. With the women’s team, there is more to come. This is just the beginning for us. They will be good signings and hopefully they can improve us next season.”

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